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Hamlin wins pole for California Cup race

Denny Hamlin streaked around two-mile Auto Club Speedway in 39.158secs to win the pole for Sunday's Pepsi 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in decisive fashion.

The third driver to make a qualifying attempt, Hamlin posted his lap and waited as the top three drivers in Friday's practice session - Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin - took their best shots and fell short.

Temporarily, David Reutimann claimed the second starting spot in Friday's time trials, but his time was subsequently disallowed after NASCAR found that the rear shock absorbers on his #00 Toyota exceeded NASCAR's gas-level limit during post-qualifying inspection. NASCAR confiscated both rear shocks, but NASCAR spokesperson Ramsey Poston said the sanctioning body would not impose additional penalties beyond disallowing the time.

Greg Biffle had earned the third position and moved up to the outside of the front row after Reutimann's disqualification, while Johnson and Montoya qualified fourth and fifth respectively. With Reutimann starting 42nd on an owner points provisional because of the disallowed time, Johnson moved up to the third position and Montoya to the fourth.

Martin, who leads Johnson by 18 points with seven races left in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, will start ninth, while Martin Truex Jr, rookie Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer claimed positions five through eight respectively.

Between practice and qualifying, Hamlin, who is sixth in the Chase standings, picked up substantial speed after his crew made massive changes to a car that was 27th quickest in the practice session.

"It was definitely a good run - a big pick-up for us," the driver said after claiming the seventh pole of his Cup career and his first since May 2008 at Richmond, "We definitely didn't expect that after how poorly we practiced. The good part about that is that, when you run so horribly in practice, you're at liberty to just kind of throw everything you want at it. That's what we did, and came up with a great set-up."

In addition to Hamlin, Biffle, Johnson, Montoya and Martin, Chase contenders Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman will start tenth, eleventh, 20th, 24th, 25th, 32nd and 36th respectively

Kyle Busch, who is suffering from a sinus infection, qualified 19th, but will start from the rear of the field Sunday after blowing the engine in his #18 Toyota during Friday's practice. Tony Raines and Mike Wallace failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service



Related Pictures

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Denny Hamlin - Joe Gibbs Racing   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 21st position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Newman is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 5th position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.(Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ParkerStore Chevrolet, poses with the Keystone Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses 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 Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Chase, qualified for 15th position Friday, November 7, 2014 for Sunday`s final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Johnson won the NASCAR race last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, who is in the Chase, qualified for 20th position Friday, November 7, 2014 for Sunday`s final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, who is in the Chase, qualified for 7th position Friday, November 7, 2014 for Sunday`s final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, who is in the Chase, qualified for 3rd position Friday, November 7, 2014 for Sunday`s final Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates winning the pole position after qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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