Hamlin wins pole in final elimination race at Phoenix

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 07:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, his girlfriend, Jordan Fish, and his daughter, Taylor James Hamlin, pose with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, AZ – NOVEMBER 07: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, his girlfriend, Jordan Fish, and his daughter, Taylor James Hamlin, pose with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin has not finished inside the top five in any of the first eight Chase races. However, he will have a good opportunity to do so Sunday as he won the pole Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quicken Loans 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN), the final race to decide the four drivers who will vie for the championship at Homestead in a week’s time.  Hamlin put down a lap of 142.113 mph near the five-minute mark the final of the two round knockout qualifying session to win his third pole of 2014.

“A good day,” Hamlin said.  “We just kept getting our car a little bit better with every run today and in the qualifying run.  Definitely out of the blue from my perspective — didn’t think we had a pole-winning car by any means.  If you were watching the TV, I definitely thought the top-eight or better would be a huge bonus.  That was a little unexpected, but showed us that we have speed in our car.  We just have to figure out how to get it optimized for 312 laps around this race track on Sunday.”

The first five and six of the seven starting spots were filled with Chase drivers as only Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman were the only two of the championship contenders who failed to make it through to the final session.

“Today’s over with,”  Newman said. MORE>>>

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