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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)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with his crew after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, captured the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan NASCAR Sprint Cup 400 race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates capturing the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, sits in his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
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