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Hamlin captures Martinsville pole


Denny Hamlin promised he would be a factor in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway, and he went out and proved it by leading a parade of drivers who smashed the track qualifying record.

Hamlin turned a lap at 99.595 mph around the 0.526-mile oval in Martinsville, Va., the oldest and shortest in the Sprint Cup Series. It’s his 17th career pole, third at Martinsville and career-best fifth this season.

“I knew we were going to be pretty strong,” Hamlin said about the track where he’s won four times. “I knew we had a shot at the pole and, beyond that, I think our car is pretty good in race trim as well.”

Hamlin later also won the pole for today’s truck race, where he’ll seek his third straight victory at the track.

Jimmie Johnson, who will start second, enters the race with a four-point lead over Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup points standings, and will be surrounded by Kenseth and his teammates – Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Johnson and Busch actually tied in qualifying at 99.344 mph, but Johnson was awarded the second spot based on the owner points tiebreaker, moving Busch to the third spot with Kenseth alongside.

Couple both ruin cars

It was a rough opening practice at Martinsville Speedway for NASCAR’s most prolific rookies.

Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who are battling for Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year on the track and are involved romantically off the track, both ruined their primary cars.