Denny Hamlin leads JGR front row qualifying effort
By Tyler Head
October 7, 2017
CONCORD, N.C.–Denny Hamlin edged out Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth to snag his first Coors Light Pole Award of 2017 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hamlin secured his 25th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole with an average speed of 191.598 mph in the final round of qualifying at the 1.5 mile oval Friday night.
“We hit our balance just right there on that last run to be able to compete with the 4 (of Kevin Harvick),” Hamlin said.
Kenseth’s 191.489 mph lap was good enough to secure his third front row start of the season. Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five.
Mixed bag for playoff contenders
Several playoff drivers showed their strength in qualifying, with Hamlin leading a crowd that occupies six of the top seven starting spots. All told, playoff drivers claimed seven of the top-10 starting positions.
That said, not every playoff driver had the qualifying effort they were hoping for. Five of the twelve remaining playoff contenders qualified 15th or worse Friday night, which means they’ll have some ground to make up when the green flag drops on race day.
Here’s where the playoff contenders qualified:
1st – Denny Hamlin
2nd – Matt Kenseth
3rd – Kevin Harvick
4th – Kyle Busch
6th – Brad Keselowski
7th – Chase Elliott
10th – Kyle Larson
15th – Ryan Blaney
17th – Martin Truex Jr.
18th – Jamie McMurray
22nd – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25th – Jimmie Johnson
Rare mid-pack start for Truex
Martin Truex Jr.’s 17th-place qualifying effort comes as a bit of a surprise. While Truex has only two poles in 2017, his average starting position was 6.5 entering Charlotte.
The 17th-place effort breaks a streak of five consecutive top-five starts and is the first time the No. 78 Toyota has qualified outside the top-15 since Daytona in July.
To further illustrate how much of an oddity Truex’s qualifying effort was, consider this: In 2017, Truex has started third or better 16 times and has qualified outside the top-10 only six times.
Kyle Stephens/The Racing Experts