On Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series may be running its longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600, at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but drivers aimed for one fast lap during pole qualifying for the race on Thursday evening. Denny Hamlin turned in the fastest lap time 27.604 seconds to claim the pole for the 600-mile race. It’ll be his second pole of the season but his first in 16 races at Charlotte.
“We just ran real fast,” Hamlin said. “The entire FedEx Office team just gave me an awesome car this weekend.”
Kurt Busch was second fastest with a time of 27.661 seconds to start alongside Hamlin on the front row. Still, Busch wasn’t happy with his qualifying performance.
“I didn’t do my job,” he said. “That just shows how good this team is right now. These Furniture Row guys are on it. They keep brining piece after piece to the race track. I couldn’t be happier for them and more proud of them. Todd Berrier (crew chief) and these guys it feels really good right now. I left some on the table in (turns) three and four, but I nailed (turns) one and two. I felt really good about it going down the back straightaway and I had a conversation with myself ‘how hard do I drive it into (turn) three?’ I just I still didn’t quite hit my marks in (turns) three and four. That just shows how good this car is right now.”
Matt Kenseth qualified third, giving Joe Gibbs Racing two of the top-three starting spots.
Busch was the only non-Toyota driver to claim one of the top-five spots on the starting grid, as Michael Waltrip Racing drivers Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer were the fourth and fifth-fastest in qualifying. The fastest Ford on Friday was the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Greg Biffle, Biffle was the only Ford driver to crack the top-10, qualifying seventh.
“That’s all I’ve got. I didn’t have any more,” Biffle said. “It was perfect on both ends. I just breathed the throttle down there in one and two. I let off less than I thought I should have down here and the car just kind of slid the front, slid the back, slid the front, but didn’t move up the track. I felt like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was phenomenal. I got it perfect,’ because hardly ever can you say you got it perfect, but I got every ounce that car could get but didn’t scrub any speed and didn’t leave any on the table and we’re about a tenth-and-a-half off.”
Others in the top-10 include Kasey Kahne in sixth, Kyle Busch in eighth, Jamie McMurray in ninth, and Ryan Newman in 10th.
Forty-four drivers made qualifying attempts with the hopes of garnering one of the 43 spots on the starting grid. The one driver failing to make the race was Mike Bliss.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR