Denny Hamlin earns his first pole of 2019
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tackles Thunder Valley in Tennessee this weekend with the annual August night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The half-mile oval boasts the quickest lap times on the circuit, drivers making a lap in under 15 seconds with average speeds approaching 130 miles an hour. It leaves you little margin for error as a simple short track bump could wipe out half-a-dozen cars or more in a matter of seconds.
The sport's high-horsepower handling package is in effect but it didn't bring us close to track record speeds. Denny Hamlin took the pole with an average speed of 129.230 MPH, over two MPH slower than Chase Elliott’s pole-winning run back in the spring.
Short tracks tend to even the playing field among the sport's top teams and this weekend is no different. Two Toyotas, two Chevrolets and a Ford round out the top five qualifiers while underdogs like Matt DiBenedetto cracked the top 10. Overall, the difference in lap times between first and last on the grid (39th) is less than one second per lap.
Only 39 cars and three unchartered teams showed up to qualify this weekend. That left all drivers guaranteed to make the race and one open spot left on the 40-car grid.
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Kyle Larson
3. Martin Truex Jr.
4. Kurt Busch
5. Aric Almirola
6. Chase Elliott
7. Matt DiBenedetto
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Erik Jones
10. Alex Bowman
11. Joey Logano
12. Ryan Blaney
13. Brad Keselowski
14. Ryan Newman
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
16. David Ragan
17. Daniel Hemric
18. Daniel Suarez
19. Austin Dillon
20. Clint Bowyer
21. William Byron
22. Bubba Wallace
23. Ryan Preece
24. Ty Dillon
25. Paul Menard
26. Corey Lajoie
27. Matt Tifft
28. Michael McDowell
29. Chris Buescher
30. Jimmie Johnson
31. Kyle Busch
32. Landon Cassill (i)
33. BJ McLeod (i)
34. Quin Houff
35. Josh Bilicki (i)
36. JJ Yeley
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Kyle Weatherman (i)
39. Ross Chastain (i)
(i) - Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
Failed To Qualify
- Hamlin earned the first pole of his 2019 season, 31st of his career and fourth at Bristol Motor Speedway. His average start of 10.2 heading into this weekend is third best in Cup behind Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.
- Kyle Larson (2nd) was the highest-qualifying Chevrolet. It's his best start on an oval track this season (Larson won the pole for the road course at Sonoma back in June).
- Martin Truex Jr. (3rd) earned his best starting spot since the 2018 Homestead season finale.
- Aric Almirola (5th) was the fastest Ford in qualifying. It ties the best starting spot of his career at Bristol (21 starts).
- Matt DiBenedetto (7th) tied the best qualifying effort of his career (New Hampshire, July).
- Daniel Hemric (17th) was the fastest rookie in the field.
- Chase Briscoe practiced for Matt Tifft (27th) after Tifft experienced vertigo inside his race car. Tifft still plans to start the race on Saturday night.
- Kyle Busch (31st) tied his worst qualifying effort of the season (Daytona 500).
- B.J. McLeod (33rd) will start his first Cup race for Rick Ware Racing since Pocono Raceway last month.
- Josh Bilicki (35th) is back with Rick Ware Racing for his fifth Cup start of the season.
- JJ Yeley (36th) is debuting a new fourth team for Rick Ware Racing this week. The No. 54 Ford was initially sponsored by a rock band, Slayer, but has picked up last-minute backing from PODS instead.
- Kyle Weatherman (38th) replaces Bayley Currey behind the wheel of Rick Ware Racing's No. 52. Currey failed a NASCAR mandated drug test and was ejected from Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this week.
NASCAR RACE BREAKDOWN
Race: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol, Tenn.)
Date: Saturday, Aug. 17
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500 laps (266.5 miles)
Stage 1: 125 Laps
Stage 2: 125 Laps
Final Stage: 250 Laps
Landon Cassill stops by to chat about his season driving for an underdog team, Starcom Racing, in the Cup Series before Mike Neff and Dustin Albino hop on to preview Bristol on the weekly Frontstretch podcast.