Denny Hamlin believes this weekend is shaping up to be all his.
"I hope," Hamlin said. "All signs indicate yes if you were looking at a Magic 8-Ball right now."
Hamlin won the pole Saturday for Sunday's First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his fourth pole win of his Cup Series career at The Paperclip.
If he has his way, that pole could lead to a sixth career win and grandfather clock trophy.
Hamlin's lap time of 19.354 was 0.03 seconds faster than Chase Elliott, who was second fastest in qualifying, but will have to start Sunday's race from the rear, a punishment for changing engines following practice Saturday morning. Elliott's engine blew up just a few laps into the first practice session.
"Certainly it’s not how you want to start your day and it puts you in a bit of a hole, but I think at the same time I think if your car is driving good and you do a good job fighting your way up to the front, you still have a shot," Elliott said. "That’s why a good qualifying effort is still important. If you do get yourself in a position towards the front at the end of this thing, tomorrow, a good pit stop could decide it for you. So, I think we have to continue to push in all areas and just hope it goes our way.”
Martin Truex, Jr. was third in qualifying and will start Sunday's race third.
"It was a good effort. We had a little bit of a weird day practicing," Truex said. "It’s always difficult to practice here. A green track this morning pretty much and then cold temperatures – it heats up throughout the day. We pretty much threw out the first practice, we only get one really and we were off a bit. We tried some new stuff here from what we’ve been doing the last few times and had to kind of go back to home base for a while in qualifying. Luckily, we hit it pretty close. The guys did a good job there and we got a good couple laps in. Happy about it and hopefully we can stay somewhere near the front there.”
Fellow playoff drivers starting positions are: Ryan Blaney (6th), Joey Logano (10th), Kyle Busch (13th), Kyle Larson (14th), Kevin Harvick (22nd).
"To have the pole is obviously a huge, huge deal here," Hamlin said.
Hamlin is currently third in the Cup Series playoff points behind Busch and Truex, and his team comes into Martinsville with added confidence, which is only boosted by the pole win. Having won five times on the track in the past, the team knew it was important to focus on a place they felt they had the best chance to win to earn a spot in the NASCAR championship race at Homestead-Miami on November 15.
"We've definitely spent a lot of time and emphasis working on set up for this race track," Hamlin said. "Definitely wanted to spend more time on working on set up on a race track where I'm particularly good at. You try to win at places that you're extremely good at and I think that hard work and effort that they've done working on all that stuff is paying off right now."
Rain hitting the area Saturday night and into Sunday morning is expected to be cleared out by early morning and not affect the race. Hamlin said he doesn't expect teams to make any changes to setups because of the weather, and he only expects the track to be affected for the first handful of races.
"It'll change the first 50 laps or so for sure. I think it will level off after that," Hamlin said. "I don't think it'll change a whole lot but certainly at the beginning it will throw us all for a loop... If anything we have an advantage because we'll have some track position but I'm obviously confident in our car with the heat and the sun today."
The green flag for the First Data 500 Sunday is expected to wave at 3 p.m.