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Denny Hamlin claims Cup Series pole position at Pocono

Denny Hamlin claims his third NASCAR Cup Series pole of the season and fourth career at Pocono Raceway and believes he has the car to beat if the handling stays similar to his qualifying effort.

Denny Hamlin has won the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin’s lap of 169.991 miles per hour in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fastest among the 10 drivers that advanced to the second round of qualifying on Saturday.

MORE: NASCAR Cup Series at Pocono - Starting Lineup

“We just made some big strides from practice, honestly,” Hamlin told NBC Sports. “That was the biggest thing. The team just did a phenomenal job getting this thing ready for qualifying, I made some adjustments, and it was all better.”

Joe Gibbs Racing locked out Row 1 with Kyle Busch (169.498 mph) claiming the outside front row position. Busch, whose future at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota has become a hotter topic in recent days, won the second race in last year’s doubleheader at Pocono.

Hendrick Motorsports claimed Row 2 with Chase Elliott (169.364 mph) and reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson (169.014 mph). Row 3 features Chris Buescher (168.922 mph) and Ryan Blaney (168.360 mph).

Bubba Wallace (168.312 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. (167.976 mph) make up Row 4, followed by Daniel Suarez (167.942 mph) and Kurt Busch in Row 5.

However, Kurt Busch may not be in Row 5 for long on Sunday. His qualifying attempt ended before it began, as he lost control of his No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota on his warm-up lap and crashed into the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier.

As for William Byron, his team has confirmed he will go to the rear on Sunday. That’s due to impending repairs to the “underneath portion” of his car, which the team says was damaged during a spin in his preceding group practice session.

Byron still made a qualifying attempt for the sake of pit selection.

Coverage of Sunday’s Cup Series race from Pocono begins at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network. The race will also stream live on the NBC Sports App and