Denny Hamlin captured his first ever pole for the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Hamlin’s time of 49.244, (182.763), was two tenths faster than Carl Edwards (181.984), who will start on the outside of row one. “It’s a great day,” said Hamlin. “I’m very confident. Usually when we qualify well, we race well.”
The top slot made this Hamlin’s second pole of the season and 11th in his Sprint Cup career for Joe Gibbs Racing. He feels the choice of the number one pit stall will give him a definite advantage for today’s 19th running at the Brickyard, and keep him in the hunt in The Chase. Hamlin is currently in 5th place with seven races to go before the championship session begins.
Hamlin has made seven previous starts at Indianapolis, but has always come up short. However, Hamlin knows his team can do it. “The stats don’t always show just how good we’ve been at this track. I feel like this is one of our strong racetracks with our team even though stats wise it may not show that. I feel like when we come here, we can win every single time. You ask me that about a couple other tracks, I would say no. This is very, very high up on my list of tracks to want to win. I consider it as high as the Daytona 500 personally.”
Hamlin is the 16th different pole sitter in 19 races at the Brickyard. In fact the last 15 poles have all been different drivers.
Joey Logano put his JGR machine in the inside of row two with a speed of 181.756, followed by Aric Almirola at 181.679 and Greg Biffle at 181.532. For Edwards and Logano, this is their best starts at Indianapolis. Almirola is making his Indianapolis debut.
“This is huge for us,” said Edwards, “and I think it's a testament to our whole team and everybody at the shop, the ability to rally around a cause. After Loudon we were all scratching our heads. It's a great lap for us. I know it's just one lap; anything can happen in the race, but it's really good.”
Despite some problems, Logano was happy. “Felt like we had a shot at the pole. Didn't feel like I hit my lap as good as I needed to, and our car was just a little bit too tight. But either way, we definitely made some big improvements, and we were able to go back to race trim and make some gains there, too.”
Jimmie Johnson will start next to Biffle after qualifying at 181.357. Johnson car got a little loose on him during his run. “I’m much better with a loose car,” Johnson said. “I think we will have a really good day tomorrow.”
Kyle Busch and last year’s winner Paul Menard will start seventh and eighth. Busch turned in a 181.046 and Menard posted a 181.014.
Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth round out the top 10, while last year’s Sprint Cup Champion and Indiana’s own Tony Stewart did not qualify well. He will start 28th after turning in a lap of 178.862. Teammate and fellow Hoosier Ryan Newman fared much better and will start 11 with a speed of 180.611.
Regan Smith’s number 78 Furniture Row entry will carry the names of the 12 victims of the Aurora, CO, theater shooting. He will in the 14th position. The Furniture Row Racing shop is just seven miles from the site of the tragedy. One victim of the shooting was a friend of a Furniture Row employee. Both were at the movies that night.
Today’s running of the Brickyard begins at 1 p.m. Public gates open at 6 a.m. beginning at 8:30 a.m. Big Machine recording artists, Sunny Sweeney, Greg Bates, Justin Moore and The Mavericks will perform on the Brickfest Stage. The Band Perry will perform at 11:50 a.m. trackside.
ESPN’s coverage begins at noon.