Hamlin charges to pole at Martinsville

Image by Jarrett/LAT

Hamlin charges to pole at Martinsville

NASCAR

Hamlin charges to pole at Martinsville

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Denny Hamlin turned his excitement about getting to Martinsville Speedway into a pole for the First Data 500.

After winning last weekend in Kansas, Hamlin said he couldn’t wait to get to the Virginia short-track where he’s been successful in the past. Saturday evening, Hamlin was the best of the field by putting down a lap of 97.840 mph (19.354s) to win the pole for the first race in the Round of 8.

The pole is the third of the season for Hamlin and his fourth at Martinsville. It is the 33rd pole of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

“It was good,” Hamlin said. “We definitely didn’t expect to run that fast for sure. We didn’t make any mock runs [in practice] … so it certainly caught us off guard, but really I just drove it to its capability, and that’s kind of all it had. I was happy with it. I knew when I ran it I was pretty happy with the lap, so just to have the pole is obviously a huge, huge deal here.”

Chase Elliott (P) qualified second at 97.694 mph. However, Elliott will drop to the rear for the start of the race Sunday afternoon because the team had to change the engine in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after an issue in opening practice.

Completing the top five in qualifying were Martin Truex Jr. (P) at 97.463 mph, Aric Almirola at 97.342 mph, and Michael McDowell at 97.252 mph.

Sixth fastest was Ryan Blaney (P) at 97.172 mph, with Clint Bowyer seventh fastest at 97.167 mph. Eighth quickest was Erik Jones at 97.148, followed by Daniel Suarez at 97.078 mph and Joey Logano (P) rounding out the top 10 at 97.063 mph.

Three playoff drivers will start outside the top 10.

Kyle Busch qualified 13th with a lap of 96.874 mph. Kyle Larson ran an identical speed, which put him 14th fastest.

Kevin Harvick, a former Martinsville winner, will start 22nd after a lap of 96.180 mph.

Matt Crafton will start 31st in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford. Crafton has been in the car all weekend for Matt Tifft after Tifft suffered a medical condition early Saturday and had to be transported to a local hospital. Sunday will be Crafton’s second career start in the Cup Series.

UP NEXT: First Data 500 at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

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