Denny Hamlin's comeback tour continued Friday at Dover International Speedway where, for the second consecutive week, he was fastest in qualifying and earned the pole-position for Sunday's NASCAR FedEx 400.
It was his third No. 1 starting position of the season and the 15th of his career.
Hamlin is in his third full race back after missing parts of five races with a L1 compression fracture in his vertebra sustained in a wreck March 24 at Auto Club Speedway. At the time of his injury, it appeared as if his streak of qualifying for the Chase would come to an end at seven.
But Hamlin has remained steadfast that he could race his way into the Chase by claiming one of the two wild-card slots available to the two drivers who win the most races and finish higher than 20th in points. And judging by his performance in the two races since his return, it appears he may be right.
At Darlington Hamlin finished runner-up to teammate Matt Kenseth, and in last week's race at Charlotte he finished fourth and has climbed to 24th in the Sprint Cup standings, just 53 points behind 20th-place Tony Stewart.
But to be eligible for the wild card, Hamlin is going to need to win.
Although Dover historically has not been one of his better tracks -- he has never finished better than fourth -- starting on the pole does give Hamlin a distinct advantage heading into Sunday to get his first victory of the season.
"We've been qualifying pretty good, which has helped out our cause with our race finishes," Hamlin said. "... I feel like we're hitting our stride. We're running really well at all different types of race tracks. Overall, I'm pretty happy. We still need to get those race wins. Not going to panic because we got some great race tracks ahead of us."
Joining Hamlin on the front row is Martin Truex Jr., whose lone Cup victory came in this race six years ago. Sharing the second row are Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, who start third and fourth, respectively.
Qualifying fifth was Ryan Newman, followed by Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jamie McMurray in positions six through 10.
Jimmie Johnson, who won this race a year ago, qualified a disappointing 24th after getting sideways during his lap. He was fastest in Friday's single practice session. With another victory, the seven-time Dover winner can break his tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty for most all-time victories on the one-mile concrete oval.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 12th, Jeff Gordon 20th and Danica Patrick will line up 39th.
Complete FedEx 400 Starting Lineup:
1. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 157.978 mph.
2. (56) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 157.798 mph.
3. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 157.756 mph.
4. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 157.736 mph.
5. (39) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 157.715 mph.
6. (55) Mark Martin, Toyota, 157.604 mph.
7. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 157.549 mph.
8. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 157.480 mph.
9. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 157.460 mph.
10. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 157.405 mph.
11. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 157.350 mph.
12. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 157.240 mph.
13. (78) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 157.054 mph.
14. (42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 156.713 mph.
15. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 156.556 mph.
16. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 156.175 mph.
17. (13) Casey Mears, Ford, 156.169 mph.
18. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 156.054 mph.
19. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 155.952 mph.
20. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 155.696 mph.
21. (33) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 155.440 mph.
22. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 155.407 mph.
23. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 155.239 mph.
24. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 155.206 mph.
25. (51) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 155.146 mph.
26. (47) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 155.086 mph.
27. (83) David Reutimann, Toyota, 155.059 mph.
28. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 154.972 mph.
29. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 154.679 mph.
30. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 154.619 mph.
31. (98) Michael McDowell, Ford, 154.573 mph.
32. (19) Mike Bliss, Toyota, 154.500 mph.
33. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 154.480 mph.
34. (30) David Stremme, Toyota, 154.295 mph.
35. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 153.984 mph.
36. (87) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 153.636 mph.
37. (7) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, Owner Points
38. (93) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, Owner Points
39. (10) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, Owner Points
40. (36) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Owner Points
41. (35) Josh Wise, Ford, Owner Points
42. (32) Timmy Hill #, Ford, Owner Points
43. (44) Scott Riggs, Ford, Owner Points