MARTINSVILLE, Va. – During his media availability session Friday afternoon (Oct. 22) at Martinsville Speedway, Denny Hamlin explained he would be able to gain a psychological advantage over points leader Jimmie Johnson not by playing head games, but by outperforming his team on the track.
“I think it’s all going to start today for myself,” Hamlin said. “I feel like if I can out-qualify the [No.] 48, I can potentially keep him from leading one lap. We spent all day (in practice) trying to get the pole – trying to get that first pit stall because obviously we do feel like it’s very important.”
After 47 cars made qualifying runs around the half-mile speedway, Hamlin was the once celebrating with the Coors Light Pole Award, his second of the year. Posting a lap of 19.518 seconds at a speed of 97.018 mph, Hamlin not only locked up a front-row starting spot, but also the first pit stall selection.
“(Pit selection is) the biggest thing and this is only the first or second race we’ve had all year that we’ve actually just worked on qualifying on Friday,” Hamlin said. “I know the [No.] 48 does that a lot and they typically out-qualify us every single week. This is the first time for us doing that and obviously we executed really well today. Object one is accomplished and we just have to move on and change our mindset from here on out to what’s going to make our car last for 500 laps.”
Despite having eight top-10 qualifying runs in the last 10 races at Martinsville, Johnson could only muster a lap good enough for the 19th spot.
Starting to Hamlin’s outside on the front row will be JTG Daugherty Racing’s Marcos Ambrose, who recovered from an early practice spin and missed the top spot by only three thousandths of a second.
“We’ve had a great short-track program all year and we’ve been looking forward to coming here to Martinsville,” Ambrose said. “It’s been a good day for us. Started off pretty loose – had a little spin there early in practice, but we got lucky and didn’t hit anything. Switched over to qualifying trim and really it was a good lap – I didn’t think it was going to be as good as the front row, but we’ll take it.”
Greg Biffle also gave Hamlin a scare for the pole, losing just a bit of time on his exit of turn 4. Posting the third fastest time of the session, Biffle was six thousandths of a second short of his first pole of the year. Biffle’s run was not without its scare, however, as he nearly lost it on his warm up lap.
“That was pretty good considering I almost wrecked,” Biffle said. “I’ve never been so scared in my life. I thought I was gonna hit the fence. I didn’t know it was gonna stop, but I did the best I could. I gave up a little bit on that second lap, but I learned something that will hopefully help me for Sunday.”
Non-Chasers Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five, with Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, David Reutimann, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan making up the rest of the top 10. Kevin Harvick, third in the Chase standings, will start Sunday’s race from the 36th spot.
Michael McDowell, Robby Gordon, Terry Cook and Johnny Sauter failed to make the race. Sauter crashed his No. 66 in practice and simply took the car out on track briefly during the session, never actually taking the green flag.
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Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.