Hamlin was without his crew chief Darian Grubb on Friday, who is still back at home celebrating the arrival of his second child earlier in the week. However, Grubb will be back at the race track in time for Sunday's event.
Hamlin will start alongside another Toyota-powered car on the second row of the grid, the Michael Waltrip Racing #56 entry driven by Martin Truex Jr.: "It wasn't a perfect lap," he shrugged. "We missed it just a little bit. I messed up a little and we made some changes to the car and messed it up some more. There was definitely more out there and I could have done a little bit better job."
His MWR team mate Clint Bowyer will start from fifth, making it four Toyotas in the top five positions at Loudon for tomorrow's race: "I just got in way too hard in one and got loose," said Bowyer afterwards. I had to wait on the throttle forever. I can't believe we ran that good. I felt like I blew it pretty bad."
Earlier in the single Friday practice session for the Cup drivers, Kyle Busch has set the fastest time ahead of Greg Biffle, but Biffle was unable to repeat that performance in the qualifying session and will start from 11th place instead.
"We had a really good car, but just ended up a little tight right there," he said, not sounding too dispirited. "My second lap was really good. I just got tight off of four and I didn't want to lift because I knew it would be the top of the board most likely, and I just ran out of real estate. I had to go for it because I knew a .66 wasn't good enough, so I just murdered one and two on the second lap and got into three and four good, it just got tight on exit. I thought I was gonna make it. It was close.”
Most of the remaining top ten places on the grid went to the leading Chase contenders, with Jimmie Johnson in seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in ninth and Tony Stewart in tenth. New father Kevin Harvick qualified in 12th place and will start alongside Biffle on the grid.
But current Cup championship points leader Matt Kenseth was only able to qualify in 27th place, and he wasn't happy.
“That was probably our worst lap of the day, but it hasn't been going very well," he admitted later. "This place has always been a struggle for us, especially in qualifying, so we'll just get through today and start working on it tomorrow."
Mike Bliss was the one car not to qualify on speed for the 43-car grid at Loudon, after he brushed the wall on his qualifying lap.
The Cup drivers get two more practice sessions on Saturday, with the race itself starting an noon local time on Sunday. The Nationwide Series is also racing at New Hampshire, with qualifying on Saturday morning and the FW Webb 200 race itself taking place in the afternoon.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is meanwhile competing at Iowa Speedway this weekend, with all practice and qualifying sessions taking place on Saturday afternoon and the American Ethanol 200 race itself being held under the floodlights in the evening.