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Hamlin edges Reddick to claim NASCAR Cup pole in Sonoma

Denny Hamlin Denny Hamlin - Getty Images

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Denny Hamlin claimed the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, edging road course stalwart Tyler Reddick.

Hamlin earned the 38th pole of his career by turning a lap in 77.719 seconds in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Reddick will start up front alongside him Sunday after turning a lap in 77.812 seconds in his 23XI Racing Toyota.

Hamlin won a friendly argument with his crew chief, Chris Gabehart, before he recorded his winning lap.

“Chris was trying to get me to unbuckle after our first lap in the final round,” said Hamlin, who had the second-fastest time after that first lap. “He was like, ‘That’s a great day. That’s a good starting spot. I just (said), ‘You don’t want me to try again? I feel like maybe I could do it.’ And so I’m glad that we did try again.”

Chase Elliott qualified in 10th in his return from a one-race suspension. NASCAR's most popular driver missed last week’s race for deliberately wrecking Hamlin in Charlotte.

Hamlin never won the pole in his first 16 career races at Sonoma. He also has never won on the winding, hilly track in wine country, although he finished second to Tony Stewart in 2016.

Hamlin gave some credit to Reddick, his new Toyota teammate, for his own strong performance on a road course. Reddick has won three of the last five road course races on the Cup schedule.

“I think he certainly exposed me and my lack of skills," Hamlin said with a laugh. “Knew he would. You always want people that challenge you to be better and when Tyler came over here this year, we knew that he was going to be the bar that we were going to have to set ourselves against.”

Reddick is strong on road courses, but the Northern California-born racer finished 19th and 35th in his two starts at Sonoma over the previous two seasons.

Kyle Larson will start 16th after leading practice. Hamlin is the first driver since 2016 to beat Larson to the pole at Sonoma, the track closest to Larson's hometown in the Sacramento suburbs.

Larson won the pole here in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 — and he even started on the pole in 2021 when the race used a mathematical formula to determine the start order instead of qualifying. The Sonoma race wasn't held in 2020.

Michael McDowell qualified in third, earning his second top-10 start at Sonoma and his second top-10 start this season. Christopher Bell was fourth and A.J. Allmendinger fifth.

“I think we had the car to beat today, so that’s what stinks about qualifying third,” McDowell said. “It’s good to be disappointed with third. I haven’t had a career pole here in the Cup Series, so I was hoping today would be it.”

Defending Sonoma champion Daniel Suárez qualified in ninth, right behind Martin Truex Jr. Ty Gibbs was the highest-qualifying rookie in sixth.

The race is the first of four road course contests in the next 10 races for the Cup Series.


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