Denny Hamlin upstages NASCAR title contenders with Homestead pole

Denny Hamlin took pole position on Friday evening for the NASCAR Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Denny Hamlin upstages NASCAR title contenders with Homestead pole

The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver will start alongside title contender Martin Truex Jr, who was on pole until the very end of the session when Hamlin beat him by 0.005 seconds.

All four playoff contenders made it into the top 12 and into the final round of qualifying.

Hamlin's time of 31.038s was enough to beat Truex's, with an average speed of 173.980mph compared to the Furniture Row Racing driver's effort of 173.952mph.

"It's half satisfaction, half disappointment because you only run this good for so long," said Hamlin.

"We performed great over the last three or four races, better than any stretch in my career... all that's been really good but we don't have our chance, we're not part of the final four."

Truex led both the first two sessions over championship rival Kyle Busch. Hamlin was third fastest in round two, ahead of Matt Kenseth.

"It was a good effort today by everybody in the team," said Truex.

"Definitely wish we could've been first. The first two rounds were really good but we missed it in the last one.

"We out-ran the other three guys [in title contention], which is really good. All in all, a successful day."

Busch starts third, having missed out on pole by 0.009s, while veteran Kenseth took fourth place, 0.234s off the pace.

Brad Keselowski struggled in the earlier practice session and scraped into round three of qualifying in 12th, at the expense of Jamie McMurray.

Penske driver Keselowski recovered to qualify fifth ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

"Where you start is not always super important, but getting a decent pit selection as qualifying does for you is not a bad thing," said Keselowski.

Kevin Harvick was the lowest-qualifying title contender in ninth, nearly four tenths off the top, due to oversteer throughout.

"Just about spun out there going into Turn 1," he said. "I got the car sliding and missed the whole corner. Just missed the lap there and got loose.

"Good thing is, it's ninth, not 39th."

Daniel Suarez was the fastest rookie in 10th, 0.396s off the pace, while Trevor Bayne rounded out the top 12, which was covered by 0.518s.

McMurray narrowly missed out on round three and starts 13th, ahead of Erik Jones.

Dale Earnhardt Jr qualified 24th but will start his final Cup race at the rear having had to take an engine change during practice earlier on Friday.

He made it to round two but declined to set a time in that round in order to save his tyres for race day.

His Hendrick Motorsports team-mate and 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson, who won the 2016 Homestead race from the rear, qualified 22nd in front of Michael McDowell and 0.273s off the pace. Johnson had earlier failed to clear pre-qualifying inspection.

Danica Patrick, who announced that she will no longer be a full-time NASCAR Cup driver after 2017 earlier on Friday, missed out on round two and qualified 25th.

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