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Jun 30, 2024 1:47 am

Denny Hamlin powers to Busch Light Pole in Nashville; Haley team penalized

denny hamlin

LEBANON, Tenn. — Denny Hamlin claimed his second pole position of the season and 42nd of his decorated career Saturday afternoon, just bettering his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell to earn the top starting position for Sunday’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Hamlin’s No. 11 JGR Toyota turned a fast lap of 160.354 mph (29.859 seconds) around the 1.33-mile oval — only .095-seconds faster than Bell — to claim his second Nashville pole position in the four races the track has hosted.

“Felt pretty good about it all day,” the 43-year-old Hamlin said, “seems like we definitely have fixed some of the things we weren’t very good with last year. I definitely feel pretty good about it and we’ll certainly work on it overnight to make it a little bit better and I feel pretty confident that tomorrow we’ll be in contention.”

With a new format to set the starting grid, it puts the pole winner in position one and divides the remaining drivers through the first five rows by speed and qualifying group, so Stewart-Haas Racing’s Josh Berry — who was third quickest — will start his No. 4 Ford on the outside of the front row Sunday. Bell will start third.

Hamlin is hoping the good starting position will translate into a solid finishing position. The three-race winner this season has finished 24th or worse in the last three races and is ready to get back on track before the summer break in competition in three weeks. Hamlin has a pair of top-10 finishes in the three-race Nashville Superspeedway history, including a best showing of third place last year.

Bell will start on the second row alongside Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson, who co-leads the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings with his Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott and was fastest in the Group A first-round qualifiers.

RFK Racing owner/driver Brad Keselowski will start alongside 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick on Row 3 with Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs on the fourth row and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher and Team Penske’s Austin Cindric starting their Fords on Row 5. It’s the best start for Buescher in the last six weeks.

Defending race winner Ross Chastain will roll off 20th. Elliott will start 13th.

Justin Haley’s Rick Ware Racing team was penalized Saturday for an unapproved adjustment that NASCAR officials noted after the No. 51 Ford had passed inspection. NASCAR officials did not allow the team to post a qualifying time, stripped the team of pit-stall selection and ejected car chief JR Norris for the rest of the Nashville weekend.

Haley will start at the rear of the 38-car field, and he will have to make a pass through pit road at the speed limit after Sunday’s green flag.

Gibbs fastest in Cup Series practice:

Ty Gibbs set the pace in Saturday afternoon’s practice session, posting a 159.287-mph lap at Nashville Superspeedway.

Gibbs went out in the first of two groups, with the 38-car field split into a pair of 20-minute sessions. His Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota was 0.163 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney, who was second fastest in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford at 158.428 mph.

Bubba Wallace posted the third-best lap at 158.250 mph. Defending race winner Ross Chastain was fourth with Todd Gilliland completing the top five.

Blaney was fastest in the consecutive 10-lap averages category, showing longer-run speed in his No. 12 Ford. Chastain was second best on the 10-lap averages chart, with Wallace third in that category.

–By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

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