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Hamlin takes pole at Dover Int'l Speedway

DOVER, Delaware -- Denny Hamlin turned a lap of 159.299 mph (257 kph) to win the NASCAR pole at Dover International Speedway on Saturday.

Hamlin has been open in his disdain for the 1-mile (1,600-meter) concrete oval. He has an average finish of 21st in 13 career starts at Dover.

Hamlin, third in the points standings, turned to a sports psychologist for advice and was told he needed to “fall in love with the track.”

Hamlin says the good karma, and a great No. 11 Toyota, all played a part in the turnaround.

“I think that right now we have everything rolling,” Hamlin said. “That part of it is giving me a ton of confidence.”

Hamlin is six points behind Brad Keselowski and seven points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson starts 11th as he chases history at Dover. He raced his way into the track's history books in June with his seventh win on the concrete, matching the mark held by Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison.

No active driver owns the track like the five-time NASCAR champion. Johnson led 289 of the 400 laps and looked every bit like the driver who swept the two Cup races at Dover in 2002 and 2009. Johnson also won at Dover in 2010 and he won the September 2005 race.

Dover has traditionally given Hamlin fits. He's said he just doesn't like the track known as the Monster Mile. But on Saturday he talked about winning.

“We've got a car that's very capable of staying in the front and hopefully we'll have a shot to win,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin won his 12th career pole, third this season, and, no surprise here, his first pole at Dover. He had never started better than third.

Hamlin praised crew chief Darian Grubb, who led Tony Stewart to the championship last year, for putting the No. 11 in position to take the pole.

“I think there's a lot of drivers out there that could be able to do what I do with the cars that Darian has been giving me the last few weeks,” Hamlin said. “I'm going to give him pretty much all the credit and ride his back as long as it will hold me.”

Nine other Chase for the Sprint Cup championship drivers filled the top 13. Clint Bowyer starts second and Martin Truex Jr. is third. Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon start sixth and seventh. Kasey Kahne, Keselowski, Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick are ninth through 13th. Stewart starts 24th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 25th for Sunday's 400-mile race.

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Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin #11 poses with the award after winning the pole for the AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race in Dover, Delaware, Saturday, Sept. 29. (AP)

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