Hamlin claims California pole

Denny Hamlin claimed his first pole position of the season in qualifying for the Pepsi 500 at Fontana

Hamlin claims California pole

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver set a fastest lap of 39.158 seconds at an average speed of 183.870 mph, which stayed at the top of the leaderboard despite Hamlin being just the third driver in the order to complete his run.

"That was a great pick up for us," said Hamlin, who had been 27th in practice before qualifying. "We didn't expect that after how poorly we practiced. The good part about that is that when you run so horribly in practice you kind of throw anything you got at it, and that's what we did and we just came up with a great set-up."

David Reutimann benefited from running late in the order and got the closest to Hamlin, but still was nearly two tenths off pole, initially bumping Greg Biffle from the front row of the grid.

However his times were disallowed after his car failed technical inspection, the rear shock absorber of his Toyota exceeding the maximum gas pressure allowed by the rulebook. He will start Sunday's race from 42nd on the grid.

Because of Reutimann's issue in inspection, Biffle will start from the front row, while reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who had the latest draw for qualifying among the Chase contenders, still came nearly three tenths of a second short of Hamlin's benchmark and will see the green flag wave from third.

Juan Pablo Montoya will start fourth beside Johnson, despite brushing the wall at the exit of Turn 4. The Colombian had dominated practice earlier in the day, setting the pace by more than two tenths of a second over the Hendrick duo of Johnson and Martin.

Montoya is expected to remain in his primary car for Sunday's race despite the damage to the right side of his Chevy.

"I was just too loose on the power out of four," Montoya said. "It was like loose loose, loose! I gave it a little more, thinking it could take it, and it just got too far out. Hey, it is one lap. I just ran out of talent I guess."

Martin Truex Jr will start fifth beside rookie Joey Logano while the Childress duo of Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer will make up the fourth row of the grid.

Chase leader Mark Martin ended up ninth in the order, right ahead of play-off contenders Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards - both previous winners at Fontana. Meanwhile Ryan Newman was the lowest qualifier among the Chasers in 36th.

Joe Nemechek was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 13th, while Tony Raines and Mike Wallace failed to qualify for Sunday's race.

Pos Driver Make Speed Time 1. Denny Hamlin Toyota 183.870 39.158 2. Greg Biffle Ford 182.704 39.408 + 0.250 3. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 182.635 39.423 + 0.265 4. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 182.315 39.492 + 0.334 5. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 182.246 39.507 + 0.349 6. Joey Logano Toyota 182.223 39.512 + 0.354 7. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 182.182 39.521 + 0.363 8. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 182.002 39.560 + 0.402 9. Mark Martin Chevrolet 181.979 39.565 + 0.407 10. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 181.717 39.622 + 0.464 11. Carl Edwards Ford 181.644 39.638 + 0.480 12. A.J. Allmendinger Dodge 181.420 39.687 + 0.529 13. Joe Nemechek Toyota 181.383 39.695 + 0.537 14. David Stremme Dodge 181.346 39.703 + 0.545 15. Max Papis Toyota 181.305 39.712 + 0.554 16. Casey Mears Chevrolet 181.214 39.732 + 0.574 17. Matt Kenseth Ford 181.137 39.749 + 0.591 18. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 181.096 39.758 + 0.600 19. Kyle Busch Toyota 181.032 39.772 + 0.614 20. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 180.968 39.786 + 0.628 21. Scott Speed Toyota 180.945 39.791 + 0.633 22. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 180.868 39.808 + 0.650 23. Mike Bliss Dodge 180.846 39.813 + 0.655 24. Kurt Busch Dodge 180.773 39.829 + 0.671 25. Kasey Kahne Dodge 180.741 39.836 + 0.678 26. Regan Smith Chevrolet 180.650 39.856 + 0.698 27. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 180.632 39.860 + 0.702 28. Reed Sorenson Dodge 180.591 39.869 + 0.711 29. Jamie McMurray Ford 180.523 39.884 + 0.726 30. David Gilliland Chevrolet 180.523 39.884 + 0.726 31. David Ragan Ford 180.510 39.887 + 0.729 32. Brian Vickers Toyota 180.288 39.936 + 0.778 33. Dave Blaney Toyota 180.144 39.968 + 0.810 34. Michael Waltrip Toyota 179.910 40.020 + 0.862 35. Bobby Labonte Ford 179.672 40.073 + 0.915 36. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 179.270 40.163 + 1.005 37. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 179.140 40.192 + 1.034 38. Robby Gordon Toyota 178.496 40.337 + 1.179 39. Elliott Sadler Dodge 178.372 40.365 + 1.207 40. John Andretti Chevrolet 178.293 40.383 + 1.225 41. Paul Menard Ford 177.804 40.494 + 1.336 42. David Reutimann Toyota 183.108 39.321 + 0.163 43. Michael McDowell Toyota 179.033 40.216 + 1.058 
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