Denny Hamlin on pole for Sunday’s Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway

JGR drivers have Jimmie Johnson surrounded

10/25/2013 6:35 PM

03/14/2015 9:51 AM

Jimmie Johnson may be a favorite to win Sunday’s Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway, but he will start the race deep in enemy territory.

Johnson, who qualified second, will be surrounded by all three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers as polesitter Denny Hamlin leads a parade of Sprint Cup Series title contenders to the green flag.

Hamlin’s teammates, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, line up third and fourth, respectively.

With four races left this season, Johnson leads the series standings by four points over Kenseth. Kevin Harvick and Busch are tied in third, both 26 behind Johnson.

When first appraised of the rundown in the media center Friday at Martinsville Speedway, Busch exclaimed, “Yes!”

Asked if he was worried about being surrounded by JGR teammates, Johnson quipped: “I wasn’t until Kyle got so excited just now.”

The pole was a welcome bit of good news for Hamlin, who has had one top-10 finish in his past 18 races and missed four races early in the season after suffering a broken vertebra in his back.

“You’re only as good as your last accomplishment, and mine was only 20 minutes ago,” said Hamlin, who earned his fifth pole of the year and 17th of his career.

“We’ve got our best car here. Everything is lined up to be successful this weekend. And I’m pretty decent here.”

Hamlin has four career wins at Martinsville, most recently in the fall of 2010. Hamlin is winless this season and has never completed a full season in the Cup series without winning at least one race.

He views Sunday’s race as the best opportunity to ensure 2013 doesn’t end that streak.

“When racing for the win, I’ll be a lot more aggressive with a non-teammate than a teammate,” Hamlin said. “I wouldn’t take anyone out intentionally.”

Asked if there was anything Hamlin could do to make Johnson’s life more difficult in the race, Hamlin said it was possible but difficult.

“I can do things as far as setting the pace as the race starts,” Hamlin said. “But Jimmie knows what he’s doing. He won’t let me goad him into doing something he doesn’t want to do.”

Clint Bowyer qualified fifth, Joey Logano sixth, Jamie McMurray seventh, David Ragan eighth, Jeff Gordon ninth and Harvick 10th.

And for the remainder of the drivers in the Chase, Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts 12th, Carl Edwards 14th, Ryan Newman 17th, Kurt Busch 19th, Kasey Kahne 25th and Greg Biffle 33rd.

Johnson, who has eight wins at Martinsville himself, said he and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team won’t take anything for granted this weekend.

“I’m very happy to be here, the week was a comfortable week; one, from having a decent finish at Talladega and taking the points lead. Then two, rolling into a track that is historically really good for the No. 48,” Johnson said.

“It’s been a good week, but again that doesn’t guarantee anything for the weekend. We have to go out here and get the job done and work hard.”

David Ragan qualified eighth, earning Front Row Motorsports its best start in the Cup series race since the organization’s inception in 2005.

“We were able to come up here and test and the track was a little different than where we tested at a few weeks ago, so we were struggling,” Ragan said. “Jay Guy (crew chief) and our team made some adjustments for qualifying. That was a good lap.”

After Friday qualifying; race Sunday

At Martinsville Speedway

St No. Driver Car Speed
1 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 99.595
2 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 99.344
3 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 99.344
4 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 99.183
5 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 99.162
6 22 Joey Logano Ford 99.084
7 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 99.007
8 34 David Ragan Ford 98.815
9 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 98.790
10 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 98.774
11 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 98.748
12 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 98.712
13 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 98.702
14 99 Carl Edwards Ford 98.656
15 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 98.553
16 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 98.553
17 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 98.527
18 41 Aric Almirola Ford 98.410
19 78 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 98.400
20 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford 98.394
21 14 Mark Martin Chevrolet 98.379
22 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 98.328
23 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 98.129
24 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 98.053
25 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 98.048
26 51 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 97.972
27 38 David Gilliland Ford 97.855
28 13 Casey Mears Ford 97.830
29 7 Dave Blaney Chevrolet 97.780
30 30 Cole Whitt Toyota 97.780
31 35 Josh Wise Ford 97.674
32 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota 97.618
33 16 Greg Biffle Ford 97.568
34 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota 97.498
35 55 Elliott Sadler Toyota 97.473
36 98 Michael McDowell Ford 97.448
37 36 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Own. pts.
38 32 Ken Schrader Ford Own. pts.
39 33 Tony Raines Chevrolet Own. pts.
40 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota Own. pts.
41 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet Own. pts.
42 95 Reed Sorenson Ford Own. pts.
43 83 David Reutimann Toyota Own. pts.

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