CHICAGO (AP) — Denny Hamlin won the pole Saturday for the NASCAR Cup Series’ first street race, edging Tyler Reddick on the challenging course in downtown Chicago.
Hamlin led the way for the race Sunday with a lap of 88.435 seconds at an average speed of 89.557 mph on the 12-turn, 2.2-mile course. It’s his third pole of the season and No. 39 for his career.
“It was just a great day,” said Hamlin, who is looking for his 50th Cup Series win. “Probably my single best day at the race track in all of my career for sure.”
Reddick was second at 88.479 seconds, followed by Shane van Gisbergen in his first NASCAR event and Christopher Bell. Daniel Suárez rounded out the top five in 89.322 seconds.
With Hamlin, Reddick and Bell, Toyota had three of the top four cars. Hamlin and Bell are teammates on Joe Gibbs Racing, and van Gisbergen and Suárez drive for Trackhouse Racing.
“The track’s got a lot of grip,” Reddick said. “It has a lot of character in a lot of areas, but it has a lot of grip. It really does, and the Next Gen car has had a lot of grip a lot of the road courses.
“So it’s honestly a lot of fun. There’s some really tricky areas that are really going to be stressful for the Xfinity drivers and the Cup drivers tomorrow. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Reddick races for 23XI Racing, which is owned by Hamlin and Michael Jordan — someone who knows a lot about success in Chicago. Jordan won six NBA titles with the Bulls during his Hall of Fame career.
“He’s pumped up whether we’re performing well at North Wilkesboro or we’re here in Chicago, honestly,” Hamlin said. “It is a big city for him. He’s obviously did a lot for this city and this city did a ton for him.”
The 34-year-old van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion, is the latest international driver to try NASCAR’s top series as part of Trackhouse’s Project 91. The goal for the team is expanding its global reach.
“I got a bit to learn,” said van Gisbergen, a New Zealand native. “I was learning every lap, trying to push, and yeah, it was a lot of fun.”