Denny Hamlin will start on the pole for Sunday’s season ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after he took the top spot in the final round of qualifying on Friday night.
The first round was an adventure for championship contender Jeff Gordon, who needed two runs to advance to the second round. “I messed up,” Gordon said afterwards, “We didn’t get to make a mock qualifying run in practice and I didn’t know what line to run.”
Following Gordon into the second round was fellow championship finalists Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick, who posted the fastest time in the first round.
Among the notable drivers who did not advance to the second round were Trevor Bayne, Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Stewart, and Danica Patrick. Two drivers missed qualifying for the race completely, those were Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson.
In the second round, Harvick did not have the same speed that he had in the first round, as he missed the third round by less than a tenth of a second, meaning that he will start the race in 13th position. He is the only championship finalist who will not start in the Top 10.
Matt Kenseth, who is making his first start since coming off his two race suspension, will start the race in 19th position after a time of 30.820 seconds in the second qualifying round.
Among those drivers who did not make the final round were Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, and Kurt Busch.
The final round of qualifying lasted just five minutes, and saw each driver get one run to determine who starts Sunday on the pole. Jimmie Johnson did not have a good run, as he will start in 12th position. Last week’s winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start in 9th, while Kyle Busch will start in third, which is the highest starting spot among the championship finalists. Gordon ended up with the fifth starting spot in what will be his final career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Hamlin won the pole with a third round time of 30.568, which was 0.068 faster than second place Joey Logano.
“I was surprised because we did not make a qualifying run in practice so we could focus on racing knowing that we could have a weather issue on Sunday.” Hamlin said after qualifying, “If my car stays this way through Sunday, we hope to and should be able to lead all the laps.”
The drivers will have two more practice sessions on Saturday before the final race of the season on Sunday afternoon.