Denny Hamlin scores second straight Cup pole

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For the second straight week, Denny Hamlin will lead the Sprint Cup field to the green flag. Hamlin’s lap at 157.978 mph around the Dover (Del.) International Speedway was enough to earn him the pole position for Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks.

“I feel like we’re hitting our stride,” he said afterwards to the Associated Press. “We’re running really well at different types of race tracks. Overall, I’m pretty happy. We still need to get those race wins.”

A win at Dover would be very big for his attempt to climb back into Chase contention after missing four races due to a back injury. However, the Monster Mile has never been one of his better tracks. In 14 career Cup starts there, Hamlin has just two Top-5 finishes and an average finish of 19.6.

He certainly can’t afford that as he tries to move up four positions to 20th in the standings, which is where he needs to be in order to get eligible for a wild-card berth in the Chase.

“I think our only play is to be aggressive,” Hamlin said to the AP. “I think that to come here and try to get a good points day is irrelevant because if we don’t win, then we’re not really accomplishing much.”

Toyota pilots will make up the first two rows of the grid, as Martin Truex Jr. joins Hamlin on the front row after posting a lap at 157.798 mph. Row 2 features Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, while Ryan Newman (leading the Chevrolet camp) and Mark Martin will start fifth and sixth respectively in the third row.

Among the other notables: Coca-Cola 600 winner Kevin Harvick is starting 7th; Dale Earnhardt Jr. will roll off 12th; defending race champion Jimmie Johnson goes from 24th; and Danica Patrick will try to climb up the pylon from 39th on the grid.