"I think we're going to see one of the best races we've ever seen in a long time here," Hamlin.
That's an about-face for Hamlin, who was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for criticizing the new Gen-6 car. He's refusing to pay, but said he won't appeal the penalty and NASCAR will collect the money from his race winnings. He addressed his decision not to appeal earlier Friday, and his qualifying run later allowed him to finally change the subject back to racing.
"To have everything behind me is obviously a relief," Hamlin said. "And just for my team's sake, we need to focus on running as good as we can and trying to make this Chase. Any distractions is something you don't need especially when the competition is so close. You just can't afford anything that hampers your ability to go win, so this is going to be a step in the right direction for us."
Brian Vickers was fourth in a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing and Paul Menard was fifth in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Jamie McMurray was sixth in a Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing, and defending series champion Brad Keselowski was the highest qualifying Ford driver in seventh.
Tony Stewart was eighth and was followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. Scott Riggs was the only driver who failed to qualify.