Denny Hamlin Wins Pole At Homestead-Miami; Kyle Busch Tops Championship 4

by November 16, 2018 0 comments

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Denny Hamlin captured the Busch Pole Award on Friday for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who will start second, was the fastest among the Championship 4 contenders.

Hamlin ran a lap of 31.059 seconds at 173.863 mph to capture his third pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway and his fourth of the season. While Hamlin has captured 10 top-five finishes this season, he has yet to win a race in 2018. He has one final chance to do so on Sunday.

“It’s big for us to get this race team up front here,” Hamlin said. “We definitely want to end on a high note and try to win. 2013 we were in the same predicament where we hadn’t won a race until the final race and we got it done, so hopefully it’s our time to do it. We’re going to keep digging. Hats off to this team. We were hanging around that seventh to tenth the first couple of rounds and they just – (Mike) “Wheels” (Wheeler, crew chief) made the right adjustments.”

Sunday’s race will be the last one for Hamlin with longtime crew chief, Mike Wheeler atop the pit box. The Ford EcoBoost 400 will mark their 112th race working together in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Kyle Busch will start alongside of Hamlin as he qualified second. Busch missed out on the pole by a mere 0.043 seconds. He was the fastest of the Championship 4 contenders. The effort marks his 27th top-10 start of the 2018 season. On Sunday, Busch will be competing for his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Busch was pleased with the qualifying effort and felt that his car was fast.

“The first run was really good obviously and then the second run was okay and the third run I thought we made the right adjustments and hit the right line and did a good job with everything,” Busch said. “I guess we didn’t have enough speed there. Overall, pleased with the effort today and the guys did a good job. The car felt pretty good.”

Martin Truex Jr. enters the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway looking to defend his series title. He will start in the third position after missing out on the pole by 0.058 seconds. While Truex is heading to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019, the Ford EcoBoost 400 will be the last race for Furniture Row Racing. Winning a championship on Sunday would certainly be extra special for Truex and the team.

“We were a little too free on that final run,” Truex Jr. said. “I tried to gain a little bit more but I just couldn’t quite finish getting the throttle down and I think I lost a little bit there. It was a good day. Great effort by the guys. Nice, smooth solid day, which is what we needed. We go win this thing from there and we’ll get to work tomorrow.”

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano round out the top-five starting spots. Logano has fought for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in years past, but he has never won a series title. On Friday night, Logano was just a little too loose in the final round of qualifying to sit on the pole.

“Our qualifying was just okay,” Logano said. “We had a rough start the first couple of runs in practice and made a good change for the third run in the practice, and some good changes from practice to qualifying. That put us in a good spot to go out here and bust out a decent lap and we did in the first round. The second round we got a little off and the third round we were just too loose off of turn two. I think that is where most of the speed was. I will have to go back and look at it and look at some notes and see if I can learn a little bit for next year. At this point it is behind us and we will think about tomorrow and getting the car good for the race.”

Completing the top-10 starting spots were Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola. Kyle Larson will start 11th.

Kevin Harvick who is competing for his second-career series championship, was the slowest of the Championship 4 as he qualified in the 12th position. On Friday night, Harvick says that he was fighting a really tight Ford.

“We’ve just been off as far as getting the front tires to turn today in qualifying trim and that’s all we’ve done,” Harvick said. “The Jimmy John’s Ford was just plowing tight the first time we went out, chattering the tires. We made it better the second round and then the third round it was just too tight in one and two down there, where we were okay in the first two rounds. We got tight down there and still tight down there, so we’ll go to work on it. We didn’t qualify that good here last year either, so we definitely need to figure out what we’ve got to do in qualifying trim, but hopefully our race stuff is good.”

The Ford EcoBoost 400 will broadcast live on NBC and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Image

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