Good things happen when Denny Hamlin wins the pole at Pocono Raceway, which is why the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was enthused after setting fast time in qualifying Friday.
Going 181.415mph, Hamlin broke the previous track record to claim his third career pole at the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped speedway. This is significant because each time Hamlin has started first at Pocono, he has then gone on to win.
"Typically, when you have a car that can get the pole, that tells me you have all the parts and pieces and should be capable of winning," Hamlin said. "As tough as passing is (at Pocono), it's better to be up front than having to battle your way through traffic."
Pocono was the site of Hamlin's first Sprint Cup victory in 2006 when he won from the pole as a rookie. He accomplished a similar feat two months later in NASCAR's return visit to the track.
"This was very similar to what we did our rookie season," Hamlin said. "We just kept making it two- to three-tenths faster ever session. We were definitely not a pole-winning car in practice or even in the first round of qualifying."
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Hamlin also won in 2009 and 2010 at Pocono, but has struggled since. He crashed out early in August and finished 43rd (last). His troubles were in-part attributed to a repave the track underwent two years ago.
"The race track is just so different," Hamlin said. "You might as well just rename the race track; it's just not the same as it used to be. Really the setups are completely different."
Kurt Busch, who was fastest in Round 2, qualified his Chevrolet in the second position. Following him are Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon in third, fourth, fifth, respectively.
Completing the top 12 were Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon and Tony Stewart.
The big surprise of qualifying was Jimmie Johnson's failure to advance past the second session. Johnson won took the pole in both Pocono races last year, and won in June leading 128 of 160 laps. The defending Sprint Cup champion blamed himself after qualifying 20th.
"The driver blew Turn 2," Johnson said. "I just got too greedy down in (Turn) 2 and lost the nose in corner exit. I knew it killed the lap.
"I feel bad for my guys, but this one is one me."
All 43 drivers qualified.
Pocono 400 starting lineup
|8||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||179.565|
|17||Martin Truex, Jr.||Chevrolet||178.976|
|28||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||177.830|
|43||Dave Blaney||Ford||No Time|