By David Morgan, Associate Editor
LEBANON, Tenn. – Count Mother Nature as a Denny Hamlin fan.
After Hamlin posted the fastest time in the first round of qualifying with a lap of 29.848 seconds, 160.413 mph, heavy rain moved in over the 1.333-mile concrete oval, forcing NASCAR to cancel the second round of qualifying. As a result, Hamlin’s first round speed was enough to deliver him the pole – his second of the season.
“We didn’t start off practice that stellar, but with every run we made, we just kept getting better and better,” Hamlin said. “And then obviously today, they tuned it up even, even better than it was yesterday. So, it was a really fast run considering, you know, the sunlight and all that we had. Obviously, a great lap time. I thought I under drove it a little bit, but still it was very good and obviously good enough.
Joey Logano will join Hamlin on the front row in his Team Penske Ford, followed by defending race winner Kyle Larson in third, Chase Elliott in fourth, and the series most recent winner, Daniel Suarez, in fifth.
Ryan Blaney will roll off sixth on Sunday, with Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, and Martin Truex, Jr. rounding out the top-10.
After putting up the fastest time in practice on Friday, Bubba Wallace will have his work cut out for him when the green flag flies after qualifying back in 30th.
“I told him he should have stayed in the bus,” Hamlin said with a laugh. “He agreed. I mean, it’s pressure. There’s a lot of pressure when he’s out there and it stressed me when I saw. The first thing I thought was like, oh boy, like, you know, I knew that, uh, there’s a chance.
“Bubba was fast yesterday. I mean, he blew by us and left us by a straightaway yesterday in the first run of practice. And so I think there, they had a lot of confidence in the race car and when I saw him driving in into Turn 1 on TV, I knew that he carried a tremendous amount of speed that obviously didn’t stick.”
Kyle Busch will start shotgun on the field after a spin in qualifying relegated him to the 36th and final starting position on the grid.
The second running of the Ally 400 is scheduled for 5:00 pm ET on NBC.