Hamlin’s rain plan

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Autism Speaks Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 1, 2012 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DOVER, Del. — Meteorology may not be Denny Hamlin’s primary field of expertise, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota is taking no chances with an iffy weather forecast for Saturday.

Both Hamlin and teammate Kyle Busch made strong qualifying runs during Friday’s first Sprint Cup practice at Dover, placing them second and fourth on the speed chart.

If qualifying takes place as scheduled on Saturday afternoon, Hamlin and Busch will go out late in the session, a disadvantage on a presumably hotter and slicker track than the slower cars in practice will see earlier in the day.

If rain washes out qualifying, however, those with the fastest cars in Friday’s opening practice will start up front in Sunday’s FedEx 400 — second and fourth, respectively, in the cases of Hamlin and Busch.

While others sandbagged first practice to get an earlier draw, Hamlin hedged his bet and didn’t try to manipulate his position in the qualifying order.

“The weather is really the only reason why you wouldn’t try to change your position,” Hamlin explained. “If it gets rained out, you don’t want to get caught by the rain (with a poor starting spot), and obviously there’s a greater chance (of rain on Saturday).

“That’s why we tried to go as fast as we could (on Friday) to ensure — if for some reason we don’t qualify — we at least have a good position.”

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