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

JGR drivers have Jimmie Johnson surrounded

Friday, Oct. 25, 2013

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

111Denny HamlinToyota99.595
248Jimmie JohnsonChevrolet99.344
318Kyle BuschToyota99.344
420Matt KensethToyota99.183
515Clint BowyerToyota99.162
622Joey LoganoFord99.084
71Jamie McMurrayChevrolet99.007
834David RaganFord98.815
924Jeff GordonChevrolet98.790
1029Kevin HarvickChevrolet98.774
112Brad KeselowskiFord98.748
1288Dale Earnhardt Jr.Chevrolet98.712
1342Juan Pablo MontoyaChevrolet98.702
1499Carl EdwardsFord98.656
1556Martin Truex Jr.Toyota98.553
169Marcos AmbroseFord98.553
1739Ryan NewmanChevrolet98.527
1841Aric AlmirolaFord98.410
1978Kurt BuschChevrolet98.400
2017Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Ford98.394
2114Mark MartinChevrolet98.379
2231Jeff BurtonChevrolet98.328
2327Paul MenardChevrolet98.129
2440Landon CassillChevrolet98.053
255Kasey KahneChevrolet98.048
2651Kyle LarsonChevrolet97.972
2738David GillilandFord97.855
2813Casey MearsFord97.830
297Dave BlaneyChevrolet97.780
3030Cole WhittToyota97.780
3135Josh WiseFord97.674
3293Travis KvapilToyota97.618
3316Greg BiffleFord97.568
3447Bobby LabonteToyota97.498
3555Elliott SadlerToyota97.473
3698Michael McDowellFord97.448
3736J.J. YeleyChevroletOwn. pts.
3832Ken SchraderFordOwn. pts.
3933Tony RainesChevroletOwn. pts.
4087Joe NemechekToyotaOwn. pts.
4110Danica PatrickChevroletOwn. pts.
4295Reed SorensonFordOwn. pts.
4383David ReutimannToyotaOwn. pts.

Utter: (704) 358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter