Denny Hamlin earned the pole position for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400, the final race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, by posting the best time in the last round of qualifying Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
While Hamlin will lead the field to the starting line, the focus will be on the Championship 4 as they race for the title. The top finisher among Martin Truex Jr. (qualified second), Kyle Busch (third), Brad Keselowski (fifth) and Kevin Harvick (ninth) will be crowned this year's champ.
Hamlin, who was eliminated from the playoffs last week, won his second pole of the 2017 campaign and the 26th of his career.
Here's a look at the top 10 starters for the season finale (via NASCAR.com):
1. Denny Hamlin (11)
2. Martin Truex Jr. (78)
3. Kyle Busch (18)
4. Matt Kenseth (20)
5. Brad Keselowski (2)
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17)
7. Kyle Larson (42)
8. Kurt Busch (41)
9. Kevin Harvick (4)
10. Daniel Suarez (19)
Truex has spent most of the campaign atop the Cup Series standings. He's registered seven victories, a mark that matches his career total coming into the year, and remarkably finished inside the top five in more than half of the races so far (18 of 35).
The 37-year-old veteran's success is only made more impressive by the amount of adversity the No. 78 team has dealt with away from the track.
Michelle R. Martinelli of USA Today noted Truex believes those issues, which include his girlfriend Sherry Pollex fighting Stage III ovarian cancer, the death of crew member Jim Watson from a heart attack last month and the absence of team owner Barney Visser this week because of bypass surgery, have helped the team come together even closer.
"I think it makes us a better team, it makes us stronger at what we do. It helps us lock out pressure in big situations like this weekend—like racing for a championship," he said. "So it's definitely been tough at times and rough, but we've always been there for each other and made it through. And I think that shows it's a sign of strength, and hopefully we can rely on that this weekend if things get tough at some point in time."
Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his racing career to an end Sunday after two decades at the sport's highest level. The fan favorite didn't qualify for the playoffs and hasn't found Victory Lane during his goodbye tour, but he has one more chance to steal the spotlight in Miami.
The North Carolina native said he isn't thinking about changing his plans despite the lack of success, though. He's ready for the next generation of drivers to take the reins.
"I don't need to reconsider. This is great timing for me. It's time for somebody else to get in that car and get out of it what they can," Earnhardt told reporters. "With Alex [Bowman] coming in behind me, it's just a great opportunity for him. It's his time. It's now his moment going into next season to take his career wherever he can go. And mine, in my heart, has ran its course."
All told, the season's final 400 miles at Homestead-Miami Speedway figure to feature plenty of drama and emotion for a variety of different reasons. Earnhardt walking away afterward will have a profound impact given his status as the face of the sport for so many years.
Winning a championship is still the ultimate goal Sunday, however. Expect to see plenty of caution from Truex, Busch, Keselowski and Harvick during the early stages of the race. But the final 50 laps or so should bring an entertaining battle to the finish.