Denny Hamlin claimed his first pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver set a fastest lap of 29.587sec at an average speed of 187.380 mph, beating the previous benchmark set by Stewart Haas' Ryan Newman earlier in the session.
Although Hamlin has won five times this year, this is only his first pole position of the season and also his first at Atlanta. Earlier in the day he ran solidly in practice and expects to translate his pace into his sixth win of the year.
"I'm not a qualifier and any of my fans know that," said Hamlin. "I'm usually in the 20s when I win races. Our car has been good all day long. I've been very, very happy with it. I'm typically a really bad qualifier, but I definitely think we have a heck of a race car this weekend."
Newman had been fastest in the final practice session and his lap stood unbeaten for most of the session despite him being only the third car to complete his run, as conditions improved for those further ahead in the order.
"The track is so unpredictable with the bumps and everything else that even when you think you hit your marks, you can hit a bump just a little bit the wrong way and get thrown off," said Newman. "We did our best and either way, it should be a good starting spot. Really looking forward to it, I think we have a good car for tomorrow night's race."
Hamlin's teammate Kyle Busch will start from the inside of the second row of the grid, beside the fastest Ford of Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards, while Newman's boss and teammate Tony Stewart rounded out the top five in qualifying.
Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, also looking for a sixth win this year, was seventh fastest behind Martin Truex Jr, while Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya was eighth ahead of Roush Fenway's David Ragan and Richard Petty's Kasey Kahne, who had been fastest in the opening practice session of the day.
Points leader Kevin Harvick was only 29th fastest, while Michael McDowell was 23rd and the best among those having to qualify on time.
Casey Mears grabbed the final starting spot for the second consecutive race for Germain Racing, while Jason Leffler – who was attempting a Sprint Cup comeback with Bran Racing – Landon Cassill, Scott Riggs and Todd Bodine failed to make the field for Sunday night's 500-mile event.
Pos Driver Car Speed Time Gap
1. Denny Hamlin Toyota 187.380 29.587s
2. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 187.070 29.636s + 0.049s
3. Kyle Busch Toyota 187.064 29.637s + 0.050s
4. Carl Edwards Ford 186.881 29.666s + 0.079s
5. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 186.881 29.666s + 0.079s
6. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 186.818 29.676s + 0.089s
7. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 186.711 29.693s + 0.106s
8. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 186.711 29.693s + 0.106s
9. David Ragan Ford 186.692 29.696s + 0.109s
10. Kasey Kahne Ford 186.667 29.700s + 0.113s
11. Kurt Busch Dodge 186.234 29.769s + 0.182s
12. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 186.171 29.779s + 0.192s
13. David Reutimann Toyota 186.128 29.786s + 0.199s
14. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 186.040 29.800s + 0.213s
15. Greg Biffle Ford 185.978 29.810s + 0.223s
16. AJ Allmendinger Ford 185.972 29.811s + 0.224s
17. Mark Martin Chevrolet 185.238 29.929s + 0.342s
18. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 184.911 29.982s + 0.395s
19. Paul Menard Ford 184.892 29.985s + 0.398s
20. Scott Speed Toyota 184.757 30.007s + 0.420s
21. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 184.726 30.012s + 0.425s
22. Elliott Sadler Ford 184.671 30.021s + 0.434s
23. Michael McDowell Chevrolet 184.603 30.032s + 0.445s
24. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 184.572 30.037s + 0.450s
25. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 184.437 30.059s + 0.472s
26. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 184.431 30.060s + 0.473s
27. Regan Smith Chevrolet 184.333 30.076s + 0.489s
28. Brad Keselowski Dodge 184.290 30.083s + 0.496s
29. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 184.272 30.086s + 0.499s
30. Matt Kenseth Ford 184.186 30.100s + 0.513s
31. Joey Logano Toyota 184.143 30.107s + 0.520s
32. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 184.058 30.121s + 0.534s
33. Reed Sorenson Toyota 183.503 30.212s + 0.625s
34. Joe Nemechek Toyota 183.097 30.279s + 0.692s
35. Patrick Carpentier Ford 183.055 30.286s + 0.699s
36. David Gilliland Ford 183.043 30.288s + 0.701s
37. Dave Blaney Ford 182.982 30.298s + 0.711s
38. JJ Yeley Chevrolet 182.904 30.311s + 0.724s
39. Mike Bliss Toyota 182.880 30.315s + 0.728s
40. Bill Elliott Ford 182.380 30.398s + 0.811s
41. Travis Kvapil Ford 181.111 30.611s + 1.024s
42. Kevin Conway Toyota 177.573 31.221s + 1.634s
43. Casey Mears Toyota 182.326 30.407s + 0.820s
Did not qualify:
Jason Leffler Toyota 181.777 30.499s + 0.912s
Landon Cassill Chevrolet 181.562 30.535s + 0.948s
Scott Riggs Toyota 181.123 30.609s + 1.022s
Todd Bodine Toyota 181.029 30.625s + 1.038s