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NASCAR at Miami 2018 Qualifying Results: Danny Hamlin Takes Pole Position

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2018

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 16:  Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2018 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Denny Hamlin earned the pole position for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400, the final race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, after posting the best time in the last round of qualifying Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

Kyle Busch (starting second), defending champion Martin Truex Jr. (third), Joey Logano (fifth) and Kevin Harvick (12th) are the four drivers with an opportunity to win the 2018 championship Sunday.

It's the fourth pole of the season for Hamlin and the 29th of his Cup Series career.

Here's a look at the top 10 starters for the season finale (viaΒ NASCAR.com):

1. Denny Hamlin (11)

2. Kyle Busch (18)

3. Martin Truex Jr. (78)

4. Brad Keselowski (2)

5. Joey Logano (22)

6. Kurt Busch (41)

7. Erik Jones (20)

8. Ryan Newman (31)

9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17)

10. Aric Almirola (10)

The Championship 4 features three of the last four Cup Series winners in Truex (2017), Busch (2015) and Harvick (2014). Jimmie Johnson won his record-tying seventh title in 2016, but was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this year.

Truex has the potential to become the first back-to-back champion since Johnson in 2009 and 2010 if he's the top finisher among the final four Sunday.

The 38-year-old New Jersey native, who will move from Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019, said accomplishing that feat would be more gratifying than when he did it in the Xfinity Series in 2004 and 2005 because of the postseason system, perΒ Bob PockrassΒ of ESPN.com.

"Here it matters. If you have two bad races in this, you're down. You have to be way more consistently fast and perform at a high level in this format," the Toyota driver said. "Where the kink is thrown in in this format is if something stupid happens."

Harvick will start deepest in the field of the title hopefuls, but his Ford team's history at Homestead-Miami Speedway suggests he may still be the favorite.

The Stewart-Haas Racing star has an average finish of 6.8 at the track in his career. That's significantly better than Truex (11.5), Logano (14.9) and Busch (18.5).

NASCAR on NBC @NASCARonNBC

.@JoeyLogano qualifies fifth at Miami. Track position will be a major key if he's to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title on Sunday. #TeamJL https://t.co/SRNUtReqKV

All told, the stage is set for an entertaining finish to the Cup Series campaign. All four drivers were consistently strong during the regular season and they've put together some clutch performances in the playoffs, including Harvick surviving a brush with the cut line last week at Phoenix, to earn this opportunity.

Another driver, maybe pole-sitter Hamlin, could steal the temporary spotlight by taking a trip to Victory Lane for the Ford EcoBoost 400, but only four contenders have a chance to take home the title of 2018 champion.

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