Denny Hamlin battled through a tough qualifying session to become the first non-Penske driver to take the top spot in the new NASCAR qualifying format.
Hamlin took the Coors Light Pole award with a new lap record of 14.761 seconds, just a fraction under a 130mph lap, with Brad Keselowski putting a Penske car on the front row for the third consecutive race. Hamlin also took pole at last season’s autumn race.
“It’s fast, faster than I ever imagined going around this track,” said Hamlin, who believes he can go even quicker in the race. “Every rules change we have just makes this car go a little bit faster. I’m way more excited about it in race trim than I was in qualifying.”
The second row was almost a carbon copy of the first, with Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Matt Kenseth lining up alongside the Penske machine of Logano. Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch – the previous lap record holder, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top ten. Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards were the last two drivers in the top 12 shootout.
Kenseth’s late run for third was enough to push Kurt Busch down to 13th, the first driver out of the final session, with championship leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. taking 14th.