BRISTOL — For the second straight year, the Bristol Motor Speedway track record fell in qualifying for the Food City 500.
NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format did little to slow down Denny Hamlin who rocketed around the .533-mile oval at 14.761 seconds (129.991 mph) in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
It broke the year-old track record sent by his teammate Kyle Busch (129.595 mph), and was the third straight pole position for the Gibbs team with Hamlin also the pole winner for last August’s IRWIN Tools Night Race.
With his 18th career pole, Hamlin tied Lee Petty, Donnie Allison and Joe Weatherly for 38th place on NASCAR’s all-time list. He is the 11th driver to win consecutive poles at Bristol and the first since Mark Martin in 2009.
Twenty-two of the previous 106 races at Bristol have been won from the pole position. Carl Edwards was the last to do it in August 2008.
Only four drivers have won from the pole position multiple times — Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace.
Eighty-five of the 106 races have been won from a top-10 starting position, while only five races have been won from a starting spot outside the top 20.
The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 38th by Elliott Sadler in 2001.
Two drivers — David Reutimann driving the No. 35 Ford for the Front Row Motorsports team owned by Morristown businessman Bob Jenkins, and Dave Blaney in the No. 77 Ford — failed to qualify for the Food City 500.
Front Row did have two other drivers qualify for Sunday’s race.
David Gilliland will go off the grid 16th in his No. 38 Ford, while David Ragan will start the No. 34 Ford in the 19th position.
Cale Conley, a highly-touted 21-year-old from Virginia who made a name for himself driving in the USAC Sprint Car and World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, will become the 37th driver to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in today’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300.
While not his debut, Bristol also marks a return to the series for Ryan Blaney in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford. It will be Blaney’s first time in the car since winning at Kentucky last September.
The Drive for Diabetes 300 is slated to start at 2 p.m.
Speaking of the Bluegrass State, Kentucky teenager Ben Rhodes will start from the pole in today’s PittLite 125 for the K&N Pro Series.
The 17-year-old Rhodes, who won a special event at Kingsport Speedway last season, toured the .533-mile oval at 119.658 mph (16.036 seconds).
“Last year I was overdriving it a lot,” said Rhodes who finished ninth in last year’s race. “I was really nervous and didn’t know what to do. This year I know what I’ve got to do. I just needed to relax a little more, drive it like I would in practice and forget the rest.”
Brandon Gdovic, a 21-year-old from Yorktown, Va., ran a lap of 119.589 mph to start second. Points lead Daniel Suarez, who won the first two K&N races of the season, will start 17th.
Today’s race is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m., dependent upon the completion of the Nationwide Series race.comments powered by Disqus