NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
               === Hamlin tops Johnson for Martinsville pole ===
 
 Martinsville,  VA (SportsNetwork.com)  -  Denny Hamlin  grabbed  the pole  for
 Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race after setting a new track qualifying record at
 Martinsville Speedway.
 
 Hamlin  made a lap around this 0.526-mile, paperclip-shaped oval at 99.595 mph
 during  Friday's qualifying  for his 17th career pole, including his personal-
 best and series-high fifth this season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver missed the
 spring  race  at Martinsville  while  he  was  recovering from  a  compression
 fracture  in his lower  back that he sustained during an accident in the March
 24 event in Fontana, Calif.
 
 Martinsville  is  one of Hamlin's  best tracks, as he  has won four Sprint Cup
 races here. He had three consecutive victories at this track from 2009-10.
 
 "I  knew we  were going to be  pretty strong, and I  knew we had a shot at the
 pole,"  Hamlin said.  "Beyond that, I thought  our car was pretty good in race
 trim. Usually, anytime we qualify on the pole, it bodes well for us on Sunday.
 Hopefully, this weekend is no different from that."
 
 Jimmie  Johnson, who  took over  the lead  in the  Chase point  standings last
 weekend at Talladega, will share the front row with Hamlin after posting a lap
 at  93.344  mph.  Johnson  has  won  the last  two  races  from  the  pole  at
 Martinsville.  He enters this event with just a four-point advantage over Matt
 Kenseth, who qualified fourth.
 
 "I  felt like I had a good last lap, although it wasn't the most efficient and
 smoothest  lap, so I  felt like I had a chance to maybe slide down to fifth or
 sixth  or something  as  the session  went  on," Johnson  said.  "I think  the
 conditions  were pretty tough  for everybody. I saw a lot of guys slipping and
 sliding around, and evidently the lap wasn't all that bad.  I would have loved
 to do one spot better."
 
 Kyle  Busch  qualified third  to  give  JGR  three  of the  top-four  starting
 positions.  Busch had the exact time/speed as Johnson, but he currently trails
 Johnson by 26 points.
 
 "I  think Jimmie  hit the nail on  the head there, obviously, qualifying was a
 little  bit different, but we liked our car in practice," Busch said. "I think
 it's  my  best ever start (at  Martinsville), so whether it's second or third,
 maybe  there's an asterisk  that goes next to it, but it's fun to qualify well
 here."
 
 Clint Bowyer took the fifth spot, followed by Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, who
 won at Talladega, and David Ragan. Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick completed the
 top-10.  Harvick is  also 26 points behind Johnson. Gordon trails his Hendrick
 Motorsports teammate by 34 points.
 
 The top-18 drivers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 98.400
 mph,  set  by Johnson  in April. With  this being the  inaugural season of the
 Gen-6  race car, it's  the 18th time in 2013 that a track qualifying record in
 NASCAR's top series has been broken.
 
 Danica  Patrick qualified  41st in a backup car after crashing her primary car
 in practice, which was held earlier in the day.
 
 10/25 19:44:46 ET

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