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Hamlin takes Dover pole for NASCAR Sprint Cup race

Denny Hamlin continues to progress in return from a back injury.

Denny Hamlin continues to progress in return from a back injury.

DOVER, Del. — Denny Hamlin has another top spot in his comeback from a back injury.

He'll need to turn poles into checkered flags if he wants to make a serious run at a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Hamlin turned a lap of 157.978 mph Friday to win the pole for Sunday's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway. He won the pole last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway and has three overall this season.

But a four-race absence because of his injury has him needing wins to make the Chase and race for his first career championship.

Hamlin, who finished fourth last week, has never won at Dover. He has only a 19.6 average finish in 14 career races on the mile track.

Hamlin's fourth-place finish moved him up three spots to 24th in the standings, 53 points out of 20th position, where he'd need to be to be eligible for one of two wild-card berths.

"I feel like we're hitting our stride," he said. "We're running really well at different types of race tracks. Overall, I'm pretty happy. We still need to get those race wins."

Martin Truex, who raced to his only career Cup victory at Dover, is starting second, joining Hamlin for an all-Toyota front row. Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. Busch and Kenseth also drive Toyotas.

Hamlin showed he continues to be on the mend after being sidelined for four races with a compression fracture in his lower spine following a March 24 crash involving former teammate Joey Logano. Hamlin is 97 points out of the top 10 and an automatic berth in the Chase.

"I think our only play is to be aggressive," Hamlin said. "I think that to come here and try to get a good points day is irrelevant because if we don't win, then we're not really accomplishing much."

trucks: Kyle Busch pulled away in the final laps at Dover International Speedway for his second straight series victory. Matt Crafton was second and Ryan Blaney third. Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace Jr. rounded out the top five. Busch, second in series history with 32 career victories, led the final 32 laps and 50 overall. He is attempting this weekend to win a NASCAR tripleheader. He also entered in today's Nationwide series race and Sunday's Sprint Cup race. "I'm the only one dumb enough to try," he said. "I think we can."

indycar: Dario Franchitti has won the pole for the first of two races at the Detroit Grand Prix. Franchitti, though, will start 11th today (3:30, Ch. 28; the second race is Sunday) because of a 10-grid-spot penalty for an unapproved engine change at Indianapolis. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver had a Friday qualifying lap of 1:19.3311 on Belle Isle's 2.36-mile street course. It was the 31st pole of his career and second this season. Franchitti fared well on a slick track despite getting little out of the morning practice session because he hit a wall, sending his car to the shop. E.J. Viso, who qualified second, will start up front followed by Mike Conway, James Jakes and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

.fast facts

Sprint Cup points

After 12 of 36 races. The top 10 in points plus two wild cards after 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts Back

Jimmie Johnson 445—

Carl Edwards 413 32

Matt Kenseth 394 51

Clint Bowyer 385 60

Kasey Kahne 370 75

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 364 81

Kevin Harvick 362 83

Paul Menard 347 98

Martin Truex 336 109

Brad Keselowski 335 110

Up next

FedEx 400, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dover (Del.) International Speedway. TV: Ch. 13

Hamlin takes Dover pole for NASCAR Sprint Cup race 05/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 9:52pm]
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