Denny Hamlin snatched his first Busch Light Pole Award of the season on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, putting his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on the front row for the 2022 Coca-Cola 600.
Hamlin clocked a 29.399-second and 183.68-mph lap around Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval to secure P1. It marked Hamlin’s 34th career pole, third at Charlotte — a track he has yet to win at in 30 starts. Hamlin has won in two of the four crown-jewel events — Daytona 500 (three times) and Southern 500 (three times). He’s missing Brickyard 400 and Coca-Cola 600 trophies.
“It’s been really a great day and the end result was probably the perfect scenario for me to have an ideal day,” Hamlin said. “Our car’s been good, it’s been good off the truck, and we just continue to tune on it quite a bit and then just kind of thought that once this thing got into the night that you would want to run the low line through (Turns) 3 and 4, so I just continued to get as many reps as I could doing that and it looked like that was kind of the difference maker in the lap itself. Happy about it.
“You talk about the long relationship I’ve had with Coca-Cola that I’ve had for 17 or 18 years now, being part of the Coke family and not winning this race has been pretty frustrating. Certainly, in the resume column, this is at the top of the list by far and the team knows how badly I want it. Anytime we can start with a head start on the field like we will on Sunday, that’s a good thing.”
Hamlin’s driver at 23XI Racing, Kurt Busch, will start alongside him Sunday in the No. 45 Toyota. Busch was 0.003 seconds slower than Hamlin at 29.402 seconds and 183.661 mph. Then, Hamlin’s teammates, Christopher Bell (29.403 seconds, 183.655 mph) and Kyle Busch (29.427 seconds, 183.505 mph), were third and fourth, respectively, giving Toyota the top four spots for the first time at Charlotte and first time overall since 2017.
Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and his No. 24 Chevrolet came in fifth with 29.52-second and 182.927-mph marks. Austin Cindric, Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell completed the top 10 for the starting lineup.
Qualifying consisted of two rounds, the first consisting of two groups. The top five in each group made up the final 10.
Kurt Busch, Hamlin, Bowman, Wallace and McDowell advanced out of the first round from Group A. Kyle Busch, Bell, Byron, Cindric and Reddick advanced from Group B.
There were two 20-minute practice sessions before qualifying, dividing the field into Groups A and B. Kyle Larson sustained damage during practice, which led to his absence in qualifying.