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Hamlin earns pole for NASCAR Clash in Los Angeles

Denny Hamlin had the fastest average speed through the first two rounds of practice then backed it up by turning in the top speed (68.498 mph) during the third round, which was used to determine the starting lineup for the Clash.

Hamlin will start on the pole for the Clash, which was originally scheduled for Sunday night but moved to Saturday due to impending severe weather in the L.A. area.

Sharing the front row with Hamlin for the 150-lap preseason non-points race is Joey Logano (67.924 mph), who won the inaugural Clash at the Coliseum in 2022.

Hamlin’s JGR teammate Ty Gibbs will line up third, Alex Bowman fourth and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five.

Completing the top-10 are William Byron, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace and Justin Hailey, who is making his debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford.

Last year’s Clash winner, JGR’s Martin Truex Jr., will line up 19th.

The drivers with the top 22 speeds made the field with the final position going to the team highest in owner points not already qualified. Reigning Cup champion Ryan Blaney claimed the final spot as he came in only 26th fastest overall.

Originally, heat races were going to be used to set the lineup and a last chance race held, but those were eliminated when NASCAR made the unprecedented decision to move the race up a day because of approaching bad weather.

Among the surprising drivers who did not advance to the main event were Hamlin’s JGR teammate, Christopher Bell, who was second-fastest through the first two rounds of practice, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher, Erik Jones and rookies Josh Berry and Zane Smith.

“Just no rear grip in our Mobil 1 Camry for some reason," Bell said. "Just couldn’t get off the corners.”

Through the first two rounds of eight-minute practice sessions, Hamlin posted the fastest average speed at 67.822 mph. He was followed by his JGR teammates Bell and Gibbs. Byron and Logano rounded out the top five.

In Group 1’s second round of practice, Austin Cindric spun off Turn 2 but did not damage his No. 2 Ford. His was the only incident in practice.

The full list of drivers who failed to make the race:

Josh Williams - No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet

Carson Hocevar - No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet

Josh Berry - No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

Daniel Suarez - No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet

Austin Dillon - No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Erik Jones - No. 43 Legacy Motor Club Toyota

Chris Buescher - No. 17 RFK Racing Ford

Austin Cindric - No. 2 Team Penske Ford

Daniel Hemric - No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet

Christopher Bell - No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Kaz Grala - No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford

Harrison Burton - No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford

Zane Smith - No. 71 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet

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