Putting the hammer down… Hamlin drives Toyota to top spot for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shop Night Race

Published 7:37 pm Friday, August 16, 2019

BRISTOL- After ruling the final practice, it looked as if Matt DiBenedetto was ready to seize the top starting spot in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shop Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Hitting the track for his two-lap qualifying run, DiBenedetto held that number one qualifying spot as several of the other competitors couldn’t match or beat him.
But as fate would have it, six other drivers in later qualifying managed to pass DiBenedetto including the Bush Pole winner Denny Hamlin who pushed his FedEx Freight Toyota Camry around the half-mile oval in a time of 14.848 at 129.230 miles per hour.
“I knew we had a shot,” said Hamlin about pulling off the pole position. “The second practice especially, our car was really good and had good speed at the front of the run and the end of the run.
“I was confident that as long as the crew chief did his job and I did my job then we would have a chance.”
The pole was the first for Hamlin on the season as well as Toyota. Hamlin was asked if it was a relief to finally capture a pole.
“Unfortunate for us, qualifying doesn’t pay any money or pay any points so it hasn’t really weighed on us obviously,” Hamlin stated. “With the aero package that we have, you can make your car on most tracks as fast or as slow as you want to but you have concerns about racing after that.
“We have really focused on making our product race well and that’s where all the accolades come from. Sure you want to win a pole because that is a big deal.
“If you don’t win a pole for your organization or manufacture or yourself in a year it maybe shows a lack of speed but I knew that we have had speed all year long but with the new qualifying format it hasn’t been our focus.”
Starting beside Hamlin on Row 1 will be Kyle Larson in the Credit One Bank Chevrolet who qualified with a speed of 129.004
Row 2 has Martin Truex Jr. qualifying third with a speed of 128.995 in his Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Off Road Toyota.
Starting beside Truex Jr. will be Kurt Busch who was in the running in the Food City 500 to win but was edge by brother Kyle. Busch circled the oval in his Monster Energy Chevrolet at a speed of 128.813.
The final qualifiers were:
Row 3: Aric Almirola and Chase Elliott
Row 4: Matt DiBenedetto and Kevin Harvick
Row 5: Erik Jones and Alex Bowman
Row 6: Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney
Row 7: Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman
Row 8: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and David Ragan
Row 9: Daniel Hemric and Daniel Suarez
Row 10: Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer
Row 11: William Byron and Bubba Wallace
Row 12: Ryan Preece and Ty Dillon
Row 13: Paul Menard and Corey LaJoie
Row 14: Matt Tift and Michael McDowell
Row 15: Chris Buescher and Jimmie Johnson
Row 16: Kyle Busch and Landon Cassill
Row 17: BJ McLeod and Quin Houff
Row 18: Josh Bilicki and JJ Yeley
Row 19: Reed Sorenson and Kyle Weatherman
Row 20: Ross Chastain
Race time is 7:30 pm at the fastest half-mile.

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