LONG POND, Penn. – Denny Hamlin made it happen on Friday by the thinnest of margins.
Hamlin’s track-record 181.415 mph lap put him on the pole for Sunday’s Pocono 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, but it wasn’t by much.
He edged Kurt Busch by 0.002 seconds to claim the top position in the final round of knockout qualifying.
Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five.
It’s the 19th pole of Hamlin’s career and his third at Pocono. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won from the pole the first two times he started from the top spot at Pocono.
Hamlin wasn’t in the top five in the first two qualifying sessions, but he upped the ante as time wound down in the final session.
“We really just made the car a lot better,” he said. “Each session, we got the car better. We didn’t test up here, one of the only teams that didn’t, but at least we’ve had a good Friday.”
Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers and Carl Edwards completed the top 10.
Busch said he didn’t think he was as close to Hamlin as the scoreboard suggested.
“This was a good turn for the better,” he said.
Points leader Matt Kenseth failed to advance from the first round of qualifying. He’ll start 26th on Sunday.
Kasey Kahne, the most recent winner at Pocono, qualified 27th. Jimmie Johnson starts his bid for three straight victories from 20th on the grid.