A win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 26 not only clinched advancement to the third round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for Denny Hamlin, it also contributed to Hamlin being awarded the pole for the YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
“Talladega and the (Charlotte Motor Speedway) Roval are places where you don’t always have control over your own result, so it’s good to know we don’t have to worry about what might happen these next two weeks,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin also is the defending winner of the playoff race at Talladega.
NASCAR’s formula for setting race starting lineups using car owner points and previous race finishing order and fastest laps resulted in a Joe Gibbs Racing front row for the Talladega race. Hamlin will be joined on the front row for Sunday’s green flag by JGR teammate Kyle Busch.
“I’m just going to do what I’m told to do,” Busch said. “I’ve been in front and been a part of a wreck, and I’ve been riding in the back and been taken out, too. There’s really no place that’s safe. With this race being the second race of the round, you have to try and run up front and hope that you don’t have some bad luck and just bring home a solid finish. We’ll do the best we can this weekend with our M&Ms Camry and see where the points fall for us afterward, then focus on what we need to do at the Roval.”
The 12 playoff drivers will start in the first 12 positions, with reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott starting third and sharing row two on the grid with Ryan Blaney. Season wins leader Kyle Larson, with six wins, so, far, in 2021, will start in row three, alongside Hamlin and Busch’s teammate Martin Truex Jr.
“I’ve never really challenged for a superspeedway victory. It’s a different kind of race where you are in the middle of a draft for most of the race,” Larson said. “I’ll look at past races and see what drivers did at the end of the stages or at the end of the races to see what might work or what I could possibly do different.”
Brad Keselowski is a six-time winner at Talladega, including a win there earlier this season. He’ll start seventh, in the fourth row with Team Penske teammate Joey Logano.
Kevin Harvick and William Byron will start ninth and 10th.
YELLAWOOD 500 STARTING LINEUP