RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Joey Logano won the pole position Friday night for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
The Daytona 500 winner turned a fast lap at 127.071 mph in the third round on the 0.75-mile oval. He easily edged Denny Hamlin for the top spot, with Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger starting in the second row.
Hamlin’s best lap in the final round came at 126.796 mph.
The pole is the series-high third of the season for Logano in nine races. He will begin the 400-lap race 30 points behind Kevin Harvick for the series lead.
The top spot also is “the most surprising pole” Logano’s ever won, he said, because he needed to run and extra lap in each of the first two rounds of qualifying to move on and was still at the back of the 12-car field when the final round began.
“When you are sitting 10th or 11th going into the last session you can swing for the fence because you can only lose one spot,” he said. “We made a big adjustment to try to find some speed and the guys did a great job with that last adjustment and get it turning and off she went.”
Hamlin also won the pole for Friday night’s Xfinity race. His performance came five days after he got out of his car and let Joe Gibbs Racing use Erik Jones as a relief driver at Bristol Motor Speedway. Some criticized Hamlin’s decision, made possible in part because an earlier victory pretty much means he’s likely clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Hamlin declared himself “100 percent” fit to race and said he was probably 100 percent by Tuesday of this week.
“I just had something pop out of place and it affected the muscles in my upper back and then kind of went to the back of my head, and unfortunately I just couldn’t move my head,” he said of the injury that took him out of the car.
He said the new rules that essentially allows drivers to feel like they have clinched a spot in the playoffs helped.
“Given the format and the points reset and everything, we do have a win, it all did play a factor in obviously getting out, but I would not have been a contender for sure if I had chosen to continue to run all 500 laps,” he said. “It would have been an ugly race and I just thought the better thing to do was make sure given that I’ve had back problems in the past. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t want to chance anything and then make it worse and then not be 100 percent here.”
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