Hamlin grabs pole at Bristol

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Updated: 8/23/2013 8:49 pm

Bristol, TN (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin won the pole for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway after topping Kurt Busch in qualifying.

Hamlin, who won the 500-lap night race at Bristol one year ago, turned a lap at 128.969 mph for his fourth pole of the season and the 16th of his Sprint Cup career. It's the first time he has claimed the pole at this 0.533-mile, high-banked oval in his 16th start.

"It was kind of a nerve-wracking type of lap where you know you have to drive it to a certain speed and hope that you've got the cushion there to kind of lean on," Hamlin said. "We obviously hit it just right and were able to get the pole."

Currently 25th in the point standings, Hamlin has finished no better than 19th in the previous nine races. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver missed four events after he suffered a serious back injury during an accident in March at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. This will be the first season that Hamlin does not make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship since his 2006 rookie season.

"I'll be as aggressive as I possibly can to get a win," he said. "There's nothing really that I won't do."

Kurt Busch will start alongside Hamlin on the front row after posting a lap at 128.770 mph. Busch, who is driving for Furniture Row Racing this season, is presently ninth in points. He also is a five-time race winner at Bristol.

Carl Edwards qualified third, while Brian Vickers took the fourth spot. Matt Kenseth completed the top-five.

Kyle Busch will start from the rear of the 43-car field after he wrecked during his qualifying run. Busch, who won Wednesday's Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol, spun out and backed it into the turn 2 wall. He suffered damage to the right-rear quarter panel on his No. 18 JGR Toyota. Earlier in the day, Busch was quickest overall in Sprint Cup practice and then won the pole for Friday night's Nationwide event here.

Joey Logano, who won last weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway, qualified sixth, followed by Kasey Kahne, who claimed the victory in the spring race at Bristol, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola.

Mark Martin will start 11th in his first race as the substitute driver for the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Martin is taking over driving duties of the 14 car for the remainder of the season, while Stewart recovers from a broken right leg he suffered in an accident during a sprint car race earlier this month in Iowa.

"I was quite challenged today, and I don't feel like I was able to rise to the challenge," Martin said. "I'm really proud of that qualifying lap. It's better than I thought."

Points leader Jimmie Johnson qualified 13th, one spot behind defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, will start 19th. Danica Patrick grabbed the 22nd starting spot.

Mike Bliss was the only driver who failed to qualify for Saturday's race, which is scheduled to start shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET.

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