Timing is everything so it’s said. Denny Hamlin could not have timed it better winning the pole Friday night for the first race in the Round of 12, Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’ve been so close and we’ve made so many final rounds, been in the top-five, but not as fast as our teammates,’ Hamlin said. “Today we adjusted on it, got it a little better each round and had some good will.”
It’s Hamlin’s first pole of the season, his second at Charlotte and the 25th of his career.
“I had one pole and at least one win in every year of my career, so I knew that the time was running out to get a pole because I hadn’t had one yet in 2017,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t keep track of the numbers, like how many, I just care about keeping the streak of winning at least one in every season alive.”
Hamlin’s lap of 28.184,191.598 mph came two minutes into the final five and just after Kevin Harvick, who led the first two rounds, took the provisional pole.
Harvick would get relegated to third moments after Hamlin’s pole lap when Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth snagged second.
“I didn’t feel like I got to the green quite as good and I felt like I had a little bit to spare in one and I didn’t,” Harvick said. “I got the ground just a little bit and got up a foot and just had to wait a split-second, but we have a really good car. We had three good rounds, a good starting spot and we’ll go from there.”
Behind Harvick, Kyle Busch, who had hit the wall in Friday’s practice and almost failed to make it out of inspection for qualifying, will start fourth, his first start not on the front row in the 2017 Playoffs. Non-playoff driver Clint Bowyer starts fifth, just his third top five start of the season.
Busch was among several cars who nearly missed the first round due to inspection failures; Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among five cars still in tech with under five minutes to go in the first round. Only Erik Jones failed to make it in time to make a lap.
Getting caught up in inspection wasn’t the only issue for Johnson and Earnhardt. Earnhardt, in a backup car after hitting the wall in practice, was bumped out in the second round in the final minute. He will start his final Cup race at Charlotte as a full time Cup driver 23rd.
Johnson struggled and was bumped out of the first round. The defending winner of this race will start 25th.
Playoff favorite and regular season champion Martin Truex Jr. also struggled in qualifying, failing to advance to the final 12. He will start 17th just his sixth start outside the top 10 this season.
“We just missed it a little bit, I don’t really know why honestly,” Truex said. “I felt pretty good in practice and we just – the car was just way freer than what it was earlier. So it’s just one of them things – race cars.”
Other playoff drivers outside the top 10: Ryan Blaney will start 15th, Jamie McMurray 18th, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 22nd.
Brad Keselowski will start sixth, Chase Elliott seventh, Kurt Busch eighth. Kasey Kahne will roll of ninth with Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick rounding out the top 12.
With 40 cars entered, no one was sent home.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Bank of America at Charlotte Motor Speedway will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network.