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Hamlin leads JGR front row at Fontana

Denny Hamlin took pole position at Fontana with a lap of 38.626s (186.403 mph) just 0.181s faster than his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Kyle Busch.
Denny Hamlin was delighted to finally put the #11 into the top ten on the grid for the first time in 2012, and furthermore he managed to do it in style - with pole position for Sunday's Auto Club 400 race at Fontana in California.

Hamlin put in a lap of 38.626s (186.403 mph) on the 2-mile D-shaped oval at the Auto Club Speedway, with his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Kyle Busch due to start alongside him from second place. The third member of the JGR squad, Joey Logano, also qualified in the top ten in eighth position.

"Everyone had a different way of doing it," said Hamlin of the many different approaches to qualifying taken in the gusty conditions on Friday afternoon. "It seemed like there were some guys who were five lanes up and some who just worked their way down. We were one of the few cars that ran all the way on the bottom."

While Busch had gone top by learning from Logano's fast lap, Hamlin stuck to his own instincts when it came to deciding his own line for qualifying.

"Really, I think I would have been less efficient running the top, even though it might have been faster," he said. "My safest route was to take the bottom, and I just took what it gave us."

Hamlin's late run deposed Busch from the top spot, with Busch already in a dead heat for the provisional pole with Michael Waltrip Racing's Mark Martin holding the identical time.

Busch gets the better grid position by virtue of the #18 having finished higher than the #55 in the 2011 owners' standings, putting Martin on the second row alongside series points leader Greg Biffle.

Last year's race winner Kevin Harvick starts from seventh position alongside Logano. Current Cup champion Tony Stewart starts behind them in ninth place, alongside Jimmie Johnson in tenth.

Robby Gordon, Joe Nemechek and Timmy Hill failed to qualify for the 43-car grid; it's Nemechek's first failure to qualify since Phoenix in Nov. 2010.

Full qualifying and Friday practice times.



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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, climbs out of his car after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2012, in Fontana, Calif. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Teammates Kyle Busch, left, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, Joey Logano, centre, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, right, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, talk during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2012, in Fontana, Calif. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, receives a lobster in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
David Ragan, driver of the #34 Taco Bell Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, are seen on the track after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying first for the NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS qualified for second position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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