Describing the 2013 season as a nightmare for Denny Hamlin may be the understatement of the year. Following a hard crash at Fontana on the last lap of the fifth race of the season, Hamlin missed the next four races after sustaining a back injury.
Since that time, the positive results have been few and far between for the driver of the No. 11 Toyota. In 28 starts this year, Hamlin has scored just five top-10 finishes and has yet to win a single race. This is after posting five victories a season ago.
Hamlin took the first step towards erasing some negativity from the 2013 season by winning the pole at Martinsville Friday afternoon. It is his fifth first-place qualifying effort of the season, and it comes at a track where Hamlin has had plenty of past success.
Hamlin is a four-time winner at NASCAR's shortest track and has posted 12 top-10 finishes in his 15 career starts on the half-mile oval.
According to the qualifying results posted on Jayski.com, Hamlin ran a lap of 99.595 miles per hour. That trip around the speedway set a new track record, breaking the previous record of 98.400 miles per hour set earlier this year by Jimmie Johnson.
Hamlin ran his record-setting lap in 19.013 seconds, five one-hundredths of a second quicker than second-place qualifier Johnson, the series points leader.
Chase drivers Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer make up the rest of top-five starters for Sunday's race.
Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick round out the 10-fastest drivers of the qualifying session.
In total, the top-19 qualifiers from Friday all ran speeds that either tied or broke the previous track record.
Greg Biffle was the slowest of the 13 Chase drivers. His lap of 97.568 miles per hour was only good enough for 33rd place on the starting grid.
Forty-three drivers attempted to make the race, and there weren't any who failed to qualify for this weekend's race.
The drivers will have two practice sessions on Saturday to get their cars ready for Sunday's running of the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.
The first practice will run for 55 minutes beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET, while Happy Hour will be 50 minutes and get underway at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Sunday's race at Martinsville is the seventh event of the Sprint Cup Series' 10-week playoff. Entering this contest, Johnson holds a four-point lead in the standings over Kenseth. Busch, Harvick and Gordon sit third through fifth, respectively, in the standings and are all within 34 points of the top spot.
The green flag for the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 will wave at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon with television coverage on ESPN.