Long Pond, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Denny Hamlin won the pole for the 400-mile Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway after setting a new track qualifying record on Friday.
Hamlin made a lap around this 2.5-mile triangle-shaped racetrack at 181.415 mph during the third and final round of qualifying. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota scored his 19th career Sprint Cup pole, including his second of the season and third at Pocono. He started on the pole and won both races here during his 2006 rookie season.
"Each [qualifying] session, our balance got a little bit better, and we were able to get a little more speed out of it," Hamlin said. "That's kind of what you want to do. You want to play with it just enough in the first few rounds to get into the final round where you go all out."
The top-four finishers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 180.654 mph, set by Jimmie Johnson in August 2013. Pocono became the ninth track where a new qualifying record was set this season, including Hamlin's pole win at Bristol in March.
Kurt Busch qualified on the front row for the first time this season after posting a lap at 181.408 mph, which was only 0.002 seconds behind Hamlin.
"To advance through knockout qualifying, we have gotten to the second round a lot this year, but we haven't gotten into the final round much," Busch said. "This was a final round type car. We put ourselves in position for the pole and came away just two thousandths [of a second] shy, which is cool."
Brad Keselowski grabbed the third starting spot, followed by Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, who has the most wins at Pocono with six, and Kyle Busch.
Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Carl Edwards, rookie Austin Dillon and Tony Stewart finished seventh through 12th, respectively, in the last round of qualifying.
Vickers had the fastest lap in practice earlier in the day. He also had the quickest lap in the first round of qualifying.
Other notable drivers and their positions include: Greg Biffle (13th), rookie Kyle Larson (14th), Ryan Newman (15th), Danica Patrick (16th), Clint Bowyer (19th), Jimmie Johnson (20th), Matt Kenseth (26th) and Kasey Kahne (27th).
"I just got too greedy down in [turn] 2 and lost the nose in corner exit," Johnson said. "I knew it killed the lap. Sure enough when I came back around, it was only good enough for 20th."
Johnson is attempting to win his third race in a row after victories at Charlotte and Dover. The six-time and defending series champion also won at Pocono in June 2013. Kahne, who is Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, grabbed the victory here last August.
All 43 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field for Sunday's Pocono 400.