Denny Hamlin, who trailed only Kevin Harvick in NASCAR Cup Series race wins in 2020, still is in search of his first win of 2021, nine races into the season. Even so, he has a sizable driver points lead, heading into Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the 10th race of the 36-race season. His #11 Joe Gibbs Racing team’s tally in the owner points standings that mirror Hamlin’s driver points total played a significant role in Hamlin garnering the pole for Sunday’s race.
“Yeah, there’s frustration, for sure,” Hamlin said of being winless, despite top-five finishes in all but one race, so far, this season. “But it doesn’t change my attitude or work ethic. I’m going to work just as hard to win next week and the week after that. You’re a competitor, you want to win. Especially when you have a great opportunity to win.”
NASCAR’s formula for determining race starting grids includes the aforementioned owner points standings and results and fastest laps from the most recent race, in this case the previous weekend’s event at Richmond Raceway, Hamlin’s home track. Alex Bowman took the lead from Hamlin late in that race for his first win of the season. For Bowman’s performance at Richmond, the driver of the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet garnered the fifth position on the Talladega starting grid.
“Well, I definitely think you make your own luck, to a point,” Bowman said. “I feel like we’ve crashed out of a lot of superspeedway races. Daytona, we were like 12 laps in, leading the top line minding my own business and got cleaned out. Luck is definitely a factor, but there are also guys that can consistently seem to avoid those situations and consistently seem to be upfront at the end of those races. I have to figure out how to do that and do a better job of doing that, but it’s definitely part of it. To a point, you make your own luck.”
The first five rows, or top-10 positions, on the Geico 500 starting grid all went to Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske drivers. Penske driver Joey Logano will start alongside JGR’s Hamlin on the front row.
Hamlin’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. will start third, sharing row two with one of Bowman’s Hendrick teammates, William Byron. Each of the first three rows contains a Gibbs driver, with Bowman sharing row three with Christopher Bell.
All four JGR drivers garnered top-10 starting position, with Kyle Busch in ninth. All three Penske drivers also will be within the first five rows for Sunday’s green flag, with Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski joining Logano from the seventh and 10th positions.
Joining teammates Bowman and Byron in the top-10 for the start at Talladega will be reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott in eighth. The only HMS driver who won’t be in the top-10 for the initial green flag Sunday will be Kyle Larson, who starts just a couple of positions outside the top-10 in 12th.
GEICO 500 STARTING LINEUP