NASCAR: Denny Hamlin broke a record that no one knew existed

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Denny Hamlin now has five consecutive NASCAR Cup Series pole positions at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he has only qualified for two of them. But that’s not the best part.

While he was forced to drop to the rear as a result of unapproved adjustments, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin was set to start Sunday afternoon’s Dixie Vodka 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the pole position, and he was officially classified as the polesitter.

The starting lineup for this 267-lap race around the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) oval in Homestead, Florida was set based on a formula which NASCAR introduced last year in response to the cancellation of practice sessions and qualifying sessions.

The formula is based 35% on each team’s rank in owner points, 25% on each driver’s finish in the previous race, 25% on each car owner’s finish in the previous race and 15% on the rank of each driver’s fastest lap from the previous race. 41st place finishes are assumed where there is no data.

As a result, Hamlin has now taken five straight pole positions at Homestead-Miami Speedway, even though he has only actually qualified twice.

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In fact, he now has six pole positions there in the last seven years, having also taken the pole position for the 2015 season finale. He took the pole position for this race on speed in both 2017 and 2018, when it served as the season finale. But not since 2018 has there actually been a qualifying session for this event.

For the 2019 season finale, qualifying was rained out, and Hamlin was awarded the pole position, as he was the Championship 4 driver who had the second best round of 8 finish among the three Championship 4 drivers who won one of the three races during the round of 8 to get to the winner-take-all season finale.

For 2020, when the race was not the season finale for the first time since 2001, Hamlin took the pole position via a random draw among the top 12 in the owner standings.

And now he has a formulated pole position, meaning that his last four pole positions at the track have actually now come via four completely different methods.

While we can’t 100% verify this, we’re pretty sure that four straight pole positions at a single track via four different methods is a record. Heck, three was probably already a record.

And it’s one that probably won’t ever be broken.

But maybe if he finishes in last place in the race before Homestead-Miami Speedway’s event next year, NASCAR can use inverse finishing order or something to run the streak to five.

Despite having started from the pole position (without having to drop to the rear) in four straight years leading into 2021, Hamlin, a three-time winner there, has only won once during that span.

He got his third win at the track last season and his first after starting from the pole position. He led 137 of the race’s 267 laps, by far his most in a single race at the venue, and won both stage one and stage two en route to the victory.

His other two wins there came in 2009 after he started in 38th place and in 2013 after he started in fifth. He finished in 10th after starting from the pole position in 2015, ninth after starting from the pole position in 2017, 12th after starting from the pole position in 2018 and 10th after starting from the pole position in 2019 as one of the four Championship 4 drivers.

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He finished in 11th place this season, his worst finish through three races. He did not lead any laps in a race won by Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron.