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