Denny Hamlin’s 2013 season could’ve been ruined when he was told he couldn’t race for nearly two months due to a back injury. However, with Hamlin’s integrity, he was able to come back at Darlington, finishing second in an incredible effort at one of NASCAR’s roughest tracks. Now, he’s fully back and has the need to win more than ever before.
Hamlin has won the pole award for the Coca-Cola 600. He set an incredible lap time of 27.604 seconds at 195.624 mph, which is a new track record at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hamlin’s lap was just one of many that were faster than the previous track record set by Greg Biffle in the fall race last year. Hamlin was emotional in his post-qualifying interview as he recognized how hard he and his team have worked to get back to this point so quickly.
“Proud to be back on the racetrack. We’re really getting things going right now,” Hamlin said to reporters. “Can I get all my Victory Lane mentions in? Because this is like a victory for me.”
It may seem like a small accomplishment, but for Hamlin, it’s a lot more than that after what he’s gone through. He still needs a minimum of two wins and definitely needs to get back inside of the top-20 which it seems like he can do within the next few races. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, each qualified in the top-10 as well.
Starting on the outside pole will be Kurt Busch, who’s been an extremely good qualifier this year which his Furniture Row Racing organization. Mark Martin also had a great qualifying run as he will start in the fourth position. Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman each had much needed top-10 qualifying runs as both are trying to reset their teams to start the second half of the season.
Each of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars qualified in the top-14 with Kasey Kahne being the highest in the sixth position. Tony Stewart was out-qualified by Danica Patrick as they will start 24th and 25th. Joey Logano failed to qualify inside of the top-30 after finishing second in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race last weekend. Mike Bliss was the only car that failed to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600, which starts Sunday at 5 pm ET.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.