After Denny Hamlin won last weekend with a dominant performance at New Hampshire, the big question was whether he could maintain his Chase momentum through this week's race at Dover International Speedway, a circuit that hasn't suited him all that well in the past.
He took care of the sceptics at the earliest opportunity, when he clinched pole position by a slender 0.005s on the one-mile oval with a lap of 22.599s (159.299 mph), with his fellow Chase contender Clint Bowyer set to start alongside him on the front row for Sunday afternoon's AAA 400 race, the third event of the 2012 Chase.
"There's no reason we can't win," said Hamlin after qualifying. "We've been working on getting our cars better and driving better," he added, remaining characteristically modest: "I think probably 75 percent was the car and 25 percent the driver."
As for why Dover has not been a happy hunting ground for him int he past, Hamlin explained that the track's characteristics simply didn't seem to gel with his personal way of driving.
"I typically don't run as strong on corner entry and use less brake is my driving style on a lot of race tracks, he explained. "Here, it just really rewards driving in hard, using the brake and then just matting it on exit. I'm typically better with throttle management on exit.
"Between that and the concrete that I don't have the good of a feel for," he continued. "I just think that it's tough for me to change the way I've been driving for twenty-some years when I come to this track. Its habits that I've tried to break," he added, revealing that he'd been watching a lot of films of how he drives to try and break down the issues and improve his performances at Dover.
"That's the only way you can continue to stay on top in this sport is to continue to evolve," he pointed out. "You just can't rest on what you've been doing for forever because these drivers are just too good.
Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer was disappointed to lose out on pole by such a spender margin, while his team mate Martin Truex Jr. will start from third position.
"When you get that close and miss, it's a missed opportunity," Bowyer admitted. "I looked over on the second lap, I knew I kind of screwed my lap up. Crossed the finish line and saw I was in second and I knew it was close."