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Denny Hamlin claims Pocono Cup pole

Denny Hamlin will start from pole position for Sunday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Tricky Triangle, Pocono Raceway.
CLICK: Full qualifying and Friday practice results

Denny Hamlin successfully claimed his second pole of 2014 after posting a lap of 49.610s (181.415mph) in qualifying on Friday afternoon at the unique 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway 'tri-oval' in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

It's a new track qualifying record for the Tricky Triangle, beating the previous benchmark of 49.819s (180.654mph) set last August by Jimmie Johnson. It's the ninth track qualifying record set this season, and the second by Hamlin himself having previously won pole at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.

It's Hamlin's third pole in 17 races at Pocono Raceway and his 19th pole in 304 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Hamlin has four wins at Pocono to his credit, including the first two races in which he started from pole position here in his rookie season in 2006.

"This was very similar to what we did our rookie season," said Hamlin. "We just kept making it two- to three-tenths faster ever session. We were definitely not a pole-winning car in practice or even in the first round of qualifying. A little bit was repetition, me getting all I can out of the race car; and a lot was [crew chief] Darian Grubb making the right adjustments.

"Typically when you have a car that can get the pole, that tells me you have all the parts and pieces and should be capable of winning," he added. "As tough as passing is [here], it's better to be up front than having to battle your way through traffic."

Starting alongside Hamlin on the front row for the Pocono 400 will be Stewart-Haas Racing's Kurt Busch, who missed out on pole by a slender two thousandths of a second.

"It didn't feel that close in the car," said Busch. "Turn 1 we ended up on the tight side on the exit of the corner. I said to myself a lot of these laps aren't perfect anymore, go get what you can in other spots of the track. That is what it's all about is the team work side of it.

"We haven't been all that good this year [in qualifying]," he admitted. "We haven't done our job at the best of our ability and this is a good turn for the better."

Penske's Brad Keselowski and Buch's team mate Kevin Harvick will start from the second row of the grid, with Hendrick's Jeff Gordon and Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Kyle Busch on row three.

"We were just all really close on speed and it was going to be curious to see who would get the top spot," said Keselowski. "I didn't think Denny was that fast but I knew Kurt was and he put up a good lap and so did Denny. I feel like we put up a decent lap as well; we were just a tiny bit short.

"On a 2.5 mile track, that is pretty dang close," he added. "We have a lot to be proud of with the efforts and we are qualifying well every week and that is helpful because we will get a good pit stall from that which is always important as well."

"I feel really good about it," Gordon summed up his own qualifying effort. " We have certainly made some great improvements from practice when we first rolled off to make our first qualifying run.

"We went faster each time out and qualified fifth," he continued. "You always want to be faster and some guys put up some really good laps. Looking at just a few little areas where we could have gone faster. All in all I'm pretty happy."

He was certainly a lot happier about his day's work than his team mate Jimmie Johnson, who after winning the last two races at Charlotte and Dover back-to-back will now have to make his way forward from a disappointing 20th place on the grid after having missed the cut for the final round of qualifying.

"The driver blew turn 2," said Johnson, shouldering the blame. "I just got too greedy down in two and lost the nose in corner exit. I knew it killed the lap. Sure enough when I came back around it was only good enough for 20th. I feel bad for my guys, but this one is one me."

Also disappointed with his grid position for Sunday's Cup race was Matt Kenseth, the third member of the JGR line-up who didn't even make it through the first of the elimination rounds and will line up a lowly 26th place on Sunday.

All cars qualified for Sunday's Pocono 400, but David Blaney set no time during the first round of qualifying after spinning in turn 1 and causing a brief red flag stoppage to proceedings.

Full qualifying and Friday practice results



Related Pictures

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Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway on June 6, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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