Denny Hamlin stole the NASCAR Cup Series pole from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch at the buzzer in the third round of qualifying.
Hamlin was the second-to-last car to run a lap around Homestead-Miami Speedway and took the pole with a speed of 173.863 mph (31.059 sec). Busch had previously laid down the best lap at 173.622 mph and will join Hamlin on the front row.
The pole is Hamlin’s fourth of the season and 30th of his career. It is the second consecutive pole for Hamlin at Homestead and his third overall. Hamlin goes into the season finale still looking for his first win of the season.
Over the radio after his run, Hamlin thanked his team and said it was “a pleasure” working with crew chief Mike Wheeler. Earlier in the day, Hamlin confirmed the two would not be together next season. Wheeler was the first to greet Hamlin when he parked on pit road.
“Just emotional because we’re good friends,” said Hamlin. “It’s good for us to get this race team up front. We definitely want to end on a high note and try to win. In 2013 we were in the same predicament where we hadn’t won a race until the final race, and we got it done. Hopefully, it’s our time to do it. We’re going to keep digging and hats off to this team.
“We were hanging around that seventh to 10th first couple of runs and [Wheeler] made the right adjustments.”
Completing the top five are Martin Truex Jr. at 173.539 mph, Brad Keselowski at 173.433 mph, and Joey Logano at 173.366 mph.
Kurt Busch was sixth fastest at 172.534 mph with Erik Jones seventh fastest at 172.507 mph. Jones was fastest in the second round of qualifying.
Rounding out the top 10 are Ryan Newman at eighth fastest at 172.430 mph, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ninth at 172.403 mph, and Aric Almirola at 172.353 mph.
Kevin Harvick was the slowest of the Championship 4 drivers. He’ll start 12th after running 171.942 mph.
Drivers who failed to advance to the final round of qualifying included Chase Elliott in 14th, Ryan Blaney 15th, Matt Kenseth 17th, Jimmie Johnson 19th, AJ Allmendinger 20th, and Jamie McMurray 21st.
Kenseth will make his final start in the No. 6 for Roush Fenway Racing and what could be his final NASCAR start. Kenseth has said he has no plans to race next season. Meanwhile, Allmendinger is making his final start with JTG Daugherty Racing and McMurray at Chip Ganassi Racing. Neither has announced his plans for next season.
Other notables deeper in the starting lineup: Clint Bowyer 26th and new Rookie of the Year William Byron 28th.
UP NEXT: Second practice at 11:35 a.m. ET Saturday.