Denny Hamlin wins the pole for the Coca-Cola 600
After suffering a compression fracture in his back earlier this season and spending six weeks out of action, Denny Hamlin is finally back on track.
Hamlin turned a lap of 27.604 (195.624 mph) to win the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Hamlin finished second in his first full race back two weeks ago at Darlington Raceway in the Southern 500.
“I was really just committed to running the best lap I could," Hamlin said. "This is a big step for the weekend. It’s a sign of things to come. I think winning would be the validation to being back. Ultimately, getting the trophy would be the validation that you are truly back."
Eight different drivers broke the old track record set of 27.88 seconds (193.708 mph) set by Greg Biffle last fall.
Kurt Busch, who won two segments during last Saturday's All-Star Race at Charlotte, will start second.
“It was an extremely fast car," Busch said. "Those guys, they keep delivering pole-winning type cars each and every week. I just didn’t quite hit my mark exactly right in (turns) 3 and 4. And I knew we might get beat by somebody. I was just hoping that we might get a gift. But Denny Hamlin laid it down and it was incredible to watch."
Matt Kenseth qualified third, Mark Martin will start fourth and Clint Bowyer rounds out the top five in fifth.
“I really like the way this car drives," Kenseth said. "I’m really encouraged how it responded to all the changes we made to it today, so I feel good about that. It was a good lap and I was pretty happy with that.”
All-Star runner-up Kasey Kahne will start the Coca-Cola 600 in sixth place with Biffle just behind in seventh.
Kyle Busch, who matched his brother with two All-Star Race segment wins, qualified in eighth.
Sprint Showdown winner Jamie McMurray is in ninth, while Ryan Newman rounds out the top 10.
Points leader and All-Star Race champion Jimmie Johnson will start Sunday's race in 12th place.
Other notable qualifiers include Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 11th, Jeff Gordon in 14th, Kevin Harvick in 15th, defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski in 20th, Danica Patrick in 24th and Tony Stewart in 25th.