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Denny Hamlin wins pole at Phoenix as Toyota gets four of top six spots in qualifying

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Denny Hamlin will start on the pole for Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series event at Phoenix Raceway, capping a stellar qualifying session for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota on Saturday.

Toyota grabbed four of the top six spots after Hamlin ran his lap in 132.655 miles per hour. Ty Gibbs will start on the outside of Row 1 — making it an all-JGR front row — while Erik Jones will start fourth and Tyler Reddick sixth.

It is the 150th pole for Toyota in the Cup Series. Hamlin now has 41 career poles, including 36 with Toyota. The 43-year-old won his first career pole in Phoenix back in 2005.

Hamlin also had one of the fastest lap times in practice on Friday, though his longer run speed was a little slower.

“We shouldn't be a fifth to 10th place car tomorrow, we should be better than that,” Hamlin said. “There were definitely cars better than us, but give my team some time to think about it overnight. We'll have some dialogue, think about things and how we're going to adjust.

"We certainly have the capability of getting there.”

Chase Elliott qualified third and William Byron, the Daytona 500 winner, will start fifth.

Ryan Blaney will start 16th after winning his first Cup Series championship in Phoenix last fall. Kyle Larson — who won last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — qualified 17th.

Joey Logano was the fastest car during Friday's practice while Hamlin was second. NASCAR allowed the 50-minute session so teams could test this year's new short-track rules package and gather data.

Drivers have had mixed opinions on the changes, but many said the cars handled similar to last year.

“Honestly, it doesn't drive a whole lot different than what we had,” said Jones, driving for Legacy Motor Club. “It might be a little better in traffic. It's not going to be night and day, but the hope is that we can be a little more aggressive and make more aggressive moves in the pack."

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing