Denny Hamlin Leads JGR Front Row Sweep At Charlotte

Denny Hamlin and his team pose with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying in the pole position for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin secured his first pole position in over a year in Friday night’s qualifying session for Sunday’s Bank of America 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hamlin clocked in with the fastest speed in the third and final round, turning in a lap of 191.598 mph in the No. 11 Toyota Camry to bump Kevin Harvick from the top spot. Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth also got the better of Harvick to take the outside pole to give Toyota and JGR a sweep of the front row.

Harvick managed to hold onto third, followed by Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Hamlin’s pole-winning effort was his first of the season and his first pole since September of 2016 at Richmond. It was his second-career Charlotte pole and the 25th of his Cup Series career.

“It’s good, you always like keeping streaks alive,” said Hamlin. “Hadn’t had a pole this year and have had one every other year, but it’s good. We’ve been so close and we’ve made so many final rounds, been in the top-five, but not as fast as our teammates. Today we adjusted on it, got it a little better each round and had some good will.

“This is a track position type race track. All of them are, but any mile-and-a-half you go to you want to have the number one pit stall, you want to be out in clean air.”

Hamlin came back in the third and final round to spoil the party for Harvick, who had the field covered through the opening two rounds along Bowyer.

Harvick topped the opening round with a lap of 192.589 mph to lead Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney and followed it up by running 191.945 mph to top the second round. Bowyer again took second, followed by Hamlin, Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

In the final round, Harvick was out first and once again motored to the top of the speed chart before Hamlin took to the track and bumped off the defending polesitter.

“I didn’t feel like I got to the green quite as good (in the final round) and I felt like I had a little bit to spare in one and I didn’t,” said Harvick. “I got the ground just a little bit and got up a foot and just had to wait a split-second, but we have a really good car. We had three good rounds, a good starting spot and we’ll go from there.”

Kyle Busch was among several drivers who had issues getting their cars through technical inspection, with Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. barely beating the clock to get onto the track by the end of Round 1, while the cars of rookie Erik Jones, Corey LaJoie and Brett Moffitt were unable to make it through inspection in time to make a qualifying attempt.

Busch and Earnhardt’s issues in inspection were largely to due problems they encountered earlier in the day in practice, with both smacking the outside wall coming off turn four due to the inconsistent application of the PJ1 TrackBite traction compound that had been applied to the track, particularly in turn four, where, in the heat of the day, the traction compound had seemed to make the track slicker.

Earnhardt, Jr. said the traction compound actually had the opposite effect, which ultimately played a role in his incident during the afternoon practice session.

“I think you guys saw it during practice, the stuff that they sprayed down it has had a bad reaction to the sun or something that has made it really slick,” said Earnhardt. “We saw at Bristol, it takes some heat and some activity to work it in and get it to activate and create grip, but we never seen it like this. When they put it on, the time of day, the sun beating on it all day, I don’t know, but something has made it to where it doesn’t have grip, it’s the opposite.”

Earnhardt, Jr., making his final Charlotte start, was forced to go to a backup car, while Kyle Busch’s crew elected to fix the primary car.

“I lost all my confidence after that last run we had there in practice,” said Kyle Busch. “(Our) Camry was really good today, just unfortunate that I got up in the stuff, the grippy stuff and it was slick. It just kind of washed us right out to the fence. We got it pretty good, so hands off – hats off to all my guys and all the hands that were on our race car today. They just worked really really hard to get it prepared and luckily enough we got it through tech and was able to get it on the track to make some qualifying runs and qualified fourth.”

Track officials later acknowledged that the PJ1 TrackBite traction compound had not been applied as evenly in turn four as it was in turn two due to a problem with the sprayer that was used, and the track will re-apply the compound before Sunday’s race.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Charlotte Motor Speedway – Concord, NC
Bank of America 500 – October 6, 2017

1. (11) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 191.598 mph.
2. (20) Matt Kenseth (P), Toyota, 191.489 mph.
3. (4) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 191.394 mph.
4. (18) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 190.941 mph.
5. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 190.584 mph.
6. (2) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 190.557 mph.
7. (24) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 190.409 mph.
8. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 190.362 mph.
9. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 190.221 mph.
10. (42) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 190.067 mph.
11. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 189.813 mph.
12. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, 189.215 mph.
13. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 190.000 mph.
14. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 189.813 mph.
15. (21) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 189.707 mph.
16. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 189.580 mph.
17. (78) Martin Truex, Jr. (P), Toyota, 189.500 mph.
18. (1) Jamie McMurray (P), Chevrolet, 189.208 mph.
19. (47) A.J. Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 189.201 mph.
20. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 189.168 mph.
21. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 188.904 mph.
22. (17) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (P), Ford, 187.422 mph.
23. (88) Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chevrolet, 187.285 mph.
24. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 185.644 mph.
25. (48) Jimmie Johnson (P), Chevrolet, 189.221 mph.
26. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 188.996 mph.
27. (13) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 188.409 mph.
28. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 187.728 mph.
29. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 187.220 mph.
30. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 187.039 mph.
31. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 186.851 mph.
32. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 186.297 mph.
33. (51) B.J. McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 184.388 mph.
34. (15) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 184.131 mph.
35. (55) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 183.045 mph.
36. (66) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 182.420 mph.
37. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 181.165 mph.
38. (77) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
39. (23) Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 0.000 mph.
40. (83) Brett Moffitt(i), Toyota, 0.000 mph.

 

About Pete McCole