Denny Hamlin will start on pole position for this Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway; the final race of the 2017 championship. The Joe Gibbs Racing #11 Toyota Camry driver stole pole position from the championship protagonists in the dying seconds of qualifying.
Hamlin was eliminated from the playoffs at the last hurdle a week ago at Phoenix International Raceway after his conflict with Chase Elliott came back to haunt him. The pair would clash again and the ensuing damage to Hamlin’s car would put him out of the race and the championship.
Despite the obvious disappointment, the #11 team would not be beaten down heading into the season finale. All eyes were on the championship contenders as the clock ticked down in the final session of qualifying, with Martin Truex Jr set to lead the field to green alongside fellow contender Kyle Busch. However, Hamlin came out of nowhere on his final lap to take the pole away from Truex by just five-thousandths of a second. It might’ve even been more, with Hamlin having been slow on the exit of turn four as he had been running so close to the outside wall.
“We had them there by a little bit, I messed up three and four a little bit. Honestly, it was a great run and we did great adjustments there.” said Hamlin, who will start on pole position for the twenty-sixth time in his Cup series career, “Our FedEx Camry was obviously very fast that last run. I love this race track and wish we would have our chance, but that will be another day, another year for us.”
Despite having been pipped to pole, Truex Jr will still be satisfied with qualifying after sealing second place on the grid. He was just four-thousandths of a second ahead of his next championship rival, Kyle Busch, who will line-up third in the #18 car. Truex and Busch have been the class of the field all year long and look set to be duking it out with each other for the championship victory in Sunday’s race.
Fourth place on the grid goes to last week’s race winner, Matt Kenseth, in what will be his last NASCAR Cup Series race with current team Joe Gibbs Racing. It could also be his last ever Cup race, be it full-time or part-time, as he currently has no ride for next year and doesn’t expect to be racing all year.
Fifth place will be the third driver of the four championship contenders. Despite having run next to no laps in practice after car issues, he managed to just sneak his way into the final session of qualifying and then put in a sterling performance to get into the top five. Fellow Ford driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr will line-up just behind Brad after putting his #17 Roush Fenway Racing car in sixth place.
Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch will share the fourth row of the grid after taking positions seven and eight respectively. The final championship contender, Kevin Harvick will roll-off just behind them after taking ninth place in the #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion.
Tenth place goes to rookie Daniel Suarez in the #19 Joe Gibbs Toyota, with Ryan Blaney and Trevor Bayne rounding out the top twelve that made it through to the final session of qualifying. Jamie McMurray and Erik Jones are the unlucky pair that will start on the seventh row of the grid. They are the two drivers that only narrowly missed out on a place in the final session.
Further back, Dale Earnhardt Jr will start his final NASCAR Cup Series race in twenty-fourth place in the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS. Just behind him will be Danica Patrick in the #10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion, who announced earlier in the day that after the end of this season, she will take part in February’s Daytona 500 and then May’s IndyCar Indianapolis 500 before ending her racing career. Both will be hoping to end their final full-time seasons with a positive result in Sunday’s race.
So it’s first blood to Truex in this weekend’s championship decider. He will start ahead of his three championship rivals, but all four will start within the top ten when the green flag flies on Sunday afternoon. Make sure you tune in to the Ford EcoBoost 400 to see the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion crowned.
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Ford EcoBoost 400 – Qualifying top twelve:
[table id=2706 /]