From the moment the No. 11 team unloaded Denny Hamlin‘s car on Friday at Michigan International Speedway, he was the fastest person in the Irish Hills. He backed that up in qualifying, sweeping all three rounds of qualifying for the first time in his career.
Hamlin ran a lap of 202.794 mph in the final round to earn his second pole of the season, also winning the pole last weekend at Watkins Glen International. The No. 11 was .011 seconds ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch (202.731 mph).
“I didn’t get all of it for sure, but the team gave me a great driving car that was easily able to consistently backup times,” Hamlin said of his pole run. “We got faster every round on the racetrack today. These guys are really stepping up, and we’re starting to make a little hay now.”
It’s the second time in Hamlin’s career that he won back-to-back poles, also doing it at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway in 2013.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the first driver to miss the final round of qualifying, and will start Sunday’s 400-mile race from 13th. June winner Clint Bowyer will begin from 16th, while defending and three-time winner at Michigan Kyle Larson will roll-off 17th. Coming off his first-career victory last weekend at Watkins Glen, Chase Elliott will start 21st, his worst qualifying effort since the Coca-Cola 600.
“It wasn’t quite turning like I hoped it would,” Elliott said of his lap. “We had a hard time here in the spring race, too, hopefully we can get it worked out tomorrow because that was not good.”
There was one incident in the session, coming three minutes into the opening round. Daniel Suarez drove hard into Turn 1, but was unable to make it out of Turn 2 unscathed. His No. 19 Toyota got loose entering the corner, smacking the wall. However, his Joe Gibbs Racing team is looking to repair the hot rod, after being third in the opening practice session Friday afternoon.
“Loose. In practice my car was very, very fast but it was a little tight and we had to make the front work a little bit better,” Suarez said of the incident. “We just crossed the line. We’re going very fast and when we have moments like that, it’s very hard to catch the car. I feel like I caught the car, but once I got to the grey, it was like being on ice. The car isn’t too bad, so we will have to fix it.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 10, 2018
There will be a pair of practice sessions on Saturday for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400. The first practice is scheduled to get underway at 8:35 ET, while final practice is slated to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET.