Hamlin wins qualifying at Lowry 400

Updated: May 2, 2008, 9:10 PM ET
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. -- Denny Hamlin didn't realize how much he was feeling the pressure to perform in front of his hometown crowd until he was hurtling around the track in qualifying.

"I knew I was under pressure because my heart was beating out of my chest during my lap," Hamlin said after his fastest lap at 126.198 mph gave him his sixth career pole and second at Richmond.

Hamlin is from Chesterfield, about a 15-minute drive from Richmond International Raceway.

"When your foot is shaking on the gas pedal, the nerves are starting to get to you," he said. "I don't know why. It's just a starting position for us, but it's something special about this race track. When you perform well, it just gives you that extra boost of confidence."

Hamlin's Toyota will have the Chevrolet of Mark Martin on the outside for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race, with the Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr. and rookie Patrick Carpentier's Dodge in the second row. The Dodges of Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya are next.

But Hamlin, who had to make a quick uniform change to race in Friday night's Nationwide Series event at the track, was the only one wearing a grin stretching from ear to ear.

"A pole at Richmond is equal to a race win anywhere else I go," he said.

Martin, who is running a partial schedule this season, was elated with his qualifying run, which will give him a fine view of open track for his 45th career start at RIR. That it came even after he was third on the track just showed that he's got a good car for the race.

"If you've got a bad draw and you've got a bad car, you've really got your hands full," he said, especially with a cooling track making it more receptive for later qualifiers.

Truex, whose contract status with Dale Earnhardt Inc. has been a hot topic of late, dodged questions about it after his run, saying he had larger issues demanding his concentration.

"I'm just trying to get my season back on track. We've had good cars all year long and we've not been able to get many good finishes," he said. "We're focusing on that."

Truex is 17th in the series point standings.

Carpentier, one of four rookies in the race, is 41st in points, well outside the coveted top 35 spots that give their owners guaranteed spots in the field each week.

Still, with much work to do, his performance was a cause for celebration.

"For the first time I won't see the leaders coming by me so quickly," he said.

His best previous starting spot was 12th at Las Vegas.

Other noteables on the starting grid are points leader Jeff Burton, another Virginia native, who will roll off 33rd; defending race champion Jimmie Johnson, who will start 12th; and red-hot Kyle Busch, who is second in points and will start seventh Saturday night.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press