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Hamlin grabs pole for Dover

5:47 PM, Sep 29, 2012   |    comments
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Dover, DE (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin kept his winning momentum in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by claiming the pole for Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Hamlin, who won last weekend's second race in the Chase at New Hampshire, turned a lap 159.299 mph to win Saturday's qualifying session at Dover. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver claimed his third pole of the season and the 12th pole of his Sprint Cup career. It's the first time he has earned the pole in 14 races at this one-mile, concrete-surfaced racetrack.

"It's definitely exciting to get a pole here," Hamlin said. "I didn't think it was a pole-winning lap when I ran it. That's why I ran a second lap, just trying to improve it. (Crew chief) Darian (Grubb) is working up some magic, and obviously, our qualifying is working a lot better this year. It's one thing that we've improved on this year, and it's helped with our results. Starting from the pole is a huge advantage for us on Sunday."

Hamlin has considered Dover as one of his worst tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. He has struggled here, finishing in the top-10 just twice in the past 10 races.

"If we can get our car to where I like it the way it drives here, there's no reason why we can't win," he added.

Michael Waltrip Racing drivers and Chase members Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. were the last two drivers to qualify in the 48-car field. Bowyer's lap at 159.264 mph was just 0.005 seconds behind Hamlin.

Truex, who was quickest in Friday's practice at Dover, qualified third with a lap at 159.200 mph.

Non-title contenders Sam Hornish Jr. and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five.

Greg Biffle qualified sixth, followed by Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski. Biffle, Gordon, Kahne and Keselowski are in the Chase.

The other Chase drivers and their starting positions at Dover include: Jimmie Johnson (11th), Matt Kenseth (12th), Kevin Harvick (13th), Tony Stewart (24th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (25th).

Johnson currently holds only a one-point lead over Keselowski, while Hamlin trails by just seven points.

Danica Patrick qualified 38th, while David Stremme, Mike Bliss, Jason Leffler, Cole Whitt and Kelly Bires failed to make the race.

Sunday's 400-mile event at Dover is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (ET).

 

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