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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 Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin in action. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, and Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 ARRIS Toyota, drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 14, 2015 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eighth position Friday, August 14, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Johnson is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualifies for seventh position Friday, August 14, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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