Denny Hamlin beats Kyle Larson for Southern 500 pole at Darlington

Denny Hamlin will try for two-in-a-row in the Southern 500 from the pole.

Denny Hamlin beats Kyle Larson for Southern 500 pole at Darlington

Hamlin’s average lap speed of 173.571 mph topped the final five-minute session of knockout qualifying, giving him the pole for Sunday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Hamlin won last season’s race after starting from the ninth position.

The pole is his third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season and 29th of his career.

“The number one pit stall is obviously very important here. I’m excited about that," Hamlin said. "Really, the team has done a great job with the car all weekend.

"So, I'm pretty optimistic and you know hopeful that we have a good smooth race on Sunday and continue to build some momentum here over the next few weeks.” 

Kyle Larson ended up second-fastest (173.411 mph) and fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. was third (173.204 mph). Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch completed the top-five.

Rounding out the top 12 starters are Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola.

Hendrick Motorsports had three of its four drivers advance to the final round of qualifying.

Round 2

Bowman bolted to the top of the second round with an average lap speed of 174.624 mph.

Larson ended up second (174.278 mph) and Elliott was third (174.161 mph). Hamlin and Newman completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Kyle Busch, Jones, Logano, Truex, Byron, Kurt Busch and Almirola.

Among those who failed to advance were Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer.

“At the end of the day we weren’t far off but not good enough to advance,” Keselowski said.

Johnson said he tagged the wall off Turn 4 during his final qualifying attempt at the conclusion of the 10-minute session.

“I thought I had plenty of space, but I didn’t, clearly and it damaged the right side of the car,” Johnsons said.

Round 1

Larson led the way in the first round by he was followed by an army of Team Hendrick drivers.

Larson’s average speed of 176.208 mph topped the first session. Byron was second (175.649 mph) and Bowman was third (175.591 mph).

Elliott was fourth and Johnson completed the top-five as all four HMS drivers ended up in the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Newman, Ryan Blaney and Logano.

With just over six minutes remaining in the first round, Jeffrey Earnhardt spun off Turn 2, slid down the backstretch and hit the inside retaining wall with his No. 96 Toyota. He appeared to suffer significant damage.

Earnhardt’s team immediately began bringing out its backup car, which means Earnhardt will have to start Sunday night’s race from the rear of the field.

Among those who failed to advance to Round 2 were Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Darrell Wallace Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray, who has had to change engines twice this weekend and will already start the race from the rest of the field.

“I think the car’s a little faster than what we ran the first lap.” Stenhouse said. “I really love this race track. I’ve made some mistakes early in the race before so that’s what I’ll focus on tomorrow, being around at the end.”

Said Kahne over his team radio following his qualifying run, “That’s all I got right there, I’m on the verge right there. I don’t know how to go any (expletive) faster.”

Take a virtual lap with Denny Hamlin's No. 11 JGR Toyota Camry around Darlington Raceway, courtesy of NASCAR Heat 3:

Cla # Driver 4506 Time Gap Mph
1 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 28.332   173.571
2 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 28.358 0.026 173.411
3 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 28.392 0.060 173.204
4 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 28.400 0.068 173.155
5 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 28.415 0.083 173.064
6 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 28.453 0.121 172.832
7 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 28.506 0.174 172.511
8 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 28.507 0.175 172.505
9 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 28.535 0.203 172.336
10 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 28.550 0.218 172.245
11 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 28.694 0.362 171.381
12 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 28.922 0.590 170.030
13 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 28.460 0.128 172.790
14 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 28.505 0.173 172.517
15 6 United States Matt Kenseth  Ford 28.512 0.180 172.475
16 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 28.523 0.191 172.408
17 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 28.547 0.215 172.263
18 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 28.585 0.253 172.034
19 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 28.621 0.289 171.818
20 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 28.635 0.303 171.734
21 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 28.663 0.331 171.566
22 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 28.667 0.335 171.542
23 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 28.810 0.478 170.691
24 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 28.830 0.498 170.572
25 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 28.439 0.107 172.917
26 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 28.445 0.113 172.881
27 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 28.489 0.157 172.614
28 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 28.542 0.210 172.293
29 95 United States Kasey Kahne  Chevrolet 28.585 0.253 172.034
30 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 28.622 0.290 171.812
31 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 28.819 0.487 170.637
32 52 United States J.J. Yeley  Chevrolet 28.854 0.522 170.430
33 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 28.928 0.596 169.994
34 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 29.091 0.759 169.042
35 00 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 29.330 0.998 167.665
36 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 30.018 1.686 163.822
37 51 United States B.J. McLeod  Chevrolet 30.038 1.706 163.713
38 99 United States Derrike Cope  Chevrolet 30.662 2.330 160.381
39 23 United States Joey Gase  Toyota 31.781 3.449 154.734
40 96 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota    
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