Photo: Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images

Edwards Edges JGR Teammate Hamlin for Bristol Pole

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin owns a new track record, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards won the round that counted in Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Edwards sped around the .533-mile high-banked concrete short track in 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) to claim the top starting spot for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA night Race (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), edging Hamlin (131.200 mph) by .023 seconds.

Remarkably, Edwards earned his fifth Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his fourth at Bristol and the 21st of his career without making a mock qualifying run during either of Friday’s two practice sessions. Instead, the driver of the No. 19 Toyota relied on setup information from his teammates – including Hamlin.

“It’s nice to have fast teammates,” said Edwards, who will try to duplicate his pole-winning, race-winning performance from April. “We wouldn’t have had a shot at (the pole) if it wasn’t for them. We thought it was going to rain, so we didn’t practice qualifying or anything. My guys made great adjustments based on that information.

“I just hope we can finish it off the way we did in the spring.”

All four JGR drivers qualified in the top five for the 23rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. Kyle Busch (130.931 mph) will start third and Matt Kenseth (130.619 mph) fifth. The only interloper was Ford driver Ryan Blaney (130.637 mph), who grabbed the fourth spot on the grid in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Fusion.

With a blistering run in 14.573 seconds (131.668 mph) in the first round, Hamlin broke the track record he set for this event last year, eclipsing his own mark of 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph). But Hamlin was the last of 12 drivers out for the final round and fell just short of Edwards’ winning time.

“We had really good speed, so I’m pretty optimistic about that,” said Hamlin, who will start within the top six for the 15th time this season. “I can’t believe we’ve qualified as good as we have this year and not gotten a pole.

“It’s unbelievable – still a great effort by our whole team. I hope we can have a great race up here on (Saturday) night and get in Victory Lane.”

Chris Buescher, fighting to crack the top 30 in the standings and qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (based on his victory at Pocono), qualified 12th, one position behind Jeff Gordon, who made the final round for the first time in his fourth start in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott had the fastest Chevrolet, qualifying sixth.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
1. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 131.407 mph.
2. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 131.200 mph.
3. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 130.931 mph.
4. (21) Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 130.637 mph.
5. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 130.619 mph.
6. (24) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 129.850 mph.
7. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 129.544 mph.
8. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 129.482 mph.
9. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 129.334 mph.
10. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 129.169 mph.
11. (88) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 129.038 mph.
12. (34) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 128.296 mph.
13. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 129.021 mph.
14. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 128.926 mph.
15. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 128.666 mph.
16. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 128.623 mph.
17. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 128.623 mph.
18. (83) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 128.503 mph.
19. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 128.477 mph.
20. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 128.477 mph.
21. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 128.262 mph.
22. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 128.142 mph.
23. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 127.997 mph.
24. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 127.436 mph.
25. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 128.279 mph.
26. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 128.134 mph.
27. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 127.835 mph.
28. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 127.809 mph.
29. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 127.648 mph.
30. (44) Brian Scott #, Ford, 127.588 mph.
31. (15) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 126.997 mph.
32. (38) Landon Cassill, Ford, 126.989 mph.
33. (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 126.553 mph.
34. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 126.545 mph.
35. (98) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 125.486 mph.
36. (55) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 125.363 mph.
37. (23) David Ragan, Toyota, 125.158 mph.
38. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Ford, 124.307 mph.
39. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 123.626 mph.
40. (30) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 122.263 mph.

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