Hamlin Collects 41st Busch Pole In Phoenix Qualifying


Denny Hamlin celebrates with the Busch Light Pole Award at Phoenix Raceway. (Ben Earp/LAT for Toyota Racing photo)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Denny Hamlin and the new Toyota Camry XSE finally found the single-lap speed they’d been looking for early in the NASCAR Cup Series season on Saturday afternoon.

Hamlin powered to the pole position for the Shriner’s Childrens 500 during qualifying at Phoenix Raceway, lapping the one-mile desert oval in 27.138 seconds (132.655 mph) with his No. 11 Brakes Plus Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

It marked his third career pole in the Valley of the Sun, as well as the first time Toyota had topped qualifying in the Cup Series since Martin Truex Jr. at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last October.

“This feels great,” said Hamlin of his 41st career Busch Light Pole Award. “I’m really trying to get better at this place. Since 2019 … and really through the Next Gen era, we haven’t been as strong at this racetrack as we want to be. If we want to win a championship, and you have to go through Phoenix to do that, then we have to get better at Phoenix.

“This is a great start for our Brakes Plus Toyota and I’m pretty happy about it.”

Sophomore Cup Series driver Ty Gibbs made it a front row lockout for JGR, putting his Monster Energy-backed No. 54 second in the final knockout qualifying round.

Gibbs’ lap of 27.226 seconds (132.227 mph) gave the 21-year-old his first front-row start in his 55th Cup Series start.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott posted the third-best time (27.243/132.144) and was the best Chevrolet driver in qualifying Saturday. He’ll be flanked on row two by Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones, who gave Toyota three of the top four grid spots.

Daytona 500 winner William Byron starts fifth, ahead of Tyler Reddick, who rallied from a late spin in Friday’s practice session to secure his place on the outside of the third row in sixth.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Noah Gragson led the Ford contingent in seventh, with Chase Briscoe, hometown hero Michael McDowell, and rookie Carson Hocevar filling out the top 10 starting spots.

Ross Chastain (Group A) and Martin Truex Jr. (Group B) were the top drivers in their respective halves of the field who failed to advance into the pole round.

Both Chastain and Truex missed the transfer cutoff by less than three hundredths (.03) of a second.

Truex lines up 11th after a lap of 27.205 seconds (132.329 mph) in Group B, while Chastain’s Group A time of 27.161 seconds (132.543 mph) places him on the outside of the sixth row.

In NASCAR’s twin-group knockout qualifying format, the Group B times from round one set the inside file from row six on back, while the Group A times from round one line up the outside file of those rows.

Other notable names starting deeper in the field Sunday include defending Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney (16th), last week’s Las Vegas winner Kyle Larson (17th), and three-time Phoenix winners Joey Logano (23rd) and Kyle Busch (31st).

Sunday’s Shriner’s Childrens 500 at Phoenix Raceway is slated for a 3:30 p.m. EDT green flag, with live coverage on FOX, the Motor Racing Network, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.