Time will tell if Denny Hamlin will indeed play the spoiler for the Chase contenders this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, but the Virginia native is definitely looking good so far.
Hamlin, a four-time Sprint Cup winner at the shortest track in series competition, locked up the pole this afternoon for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger after logging a record-breaking lap of 19.013 seconds (99.595 miles per hour) in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“If we could get a win this weekend, by no means will it fix or make us feel good about our year, but it will definitely give us something to smile about in the offseason,” Hamlin said according to The Associated Press, referring to his tough 2013 season that has seen him miss multiple races to injury and suffer through an extended streak of poor results.
It wasn’t the only pole Hamlin earned today. He also picked up the top spot for tomorrow’s Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville with a speed of 96.489 miles per hour in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, which sports a rather striking design complete with the famous “Jumpman” logo of basketball icon Michael Jordan.
For Sunday’s main event, Hamlin will be joined on the front row by Chase leader Jimmie Johnson, who has won eight times at Martinsville. Johnson turned in a lap at 99.344 mph around the .526-mile oval.
Two of Johnson’s main rivals in the championship will be right behind him. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (third in points, 26 behind Johnson) and Matt Kenseth (second in points, four behind Johnson) start third and fourth respectively.
Another pair of Chasers, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano, make up Row 3, with last week’s winner Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick rounding out the Top 10 for Sunday’s grid.