Denny Hamlin earned his fourth NASCAR Busch Series pole award of the season and his career with a quick lap of 177.772 mph (30.376 seconds) during "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" qualifying at Kentucky Speedway today.

The award is his first at the speedway where he started fifth and finished 15th last season. Hamlin will become the sixth different driver to lead a NASCAR Busch Series field to a green flag at Kentucky Speedway when 43 cars rumble to life for tonight's sold out event at 8:00 p.m. His best of two qualifying efforts ranks third on the all-time series speed chart at the speedway.

"We're tighter than I'd like to be during qualifying, but you never can complain when you are good enough to take the pole," Hamlin said. "We're definitely going to have to free it up for tonight because it seems like the track really tightens when it starts getting dark."

He will share the front row with defending Kentucky Speedway race champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Henkel Ford ), who turned his best qualifying lap at 177.270 mph (30.462 seconds). Reed Sorenson (No. 41 Discount Tire Dodge) will start third after reeling off his top qualifying circuit at 177.212 mph (30.472 seconds) and share the second row with rookie David Gilliland (No. 84 Hype Manufacturing Chevrolet), who charted a 176.904 mph (30.525 seconds) qualifying run.

"I just drove some nice conservative laps. That's all I need to do. Just go out there, be up front and have a good race," Edwards said. "I think the car is going to be great for the race. Practice yesterday was later at night, so I think it was hotter today. That's okay with me because I didn't drive yesterday."

Edwards set the series track qualifying record at 181.287 mph (29.787 seconds) last season and drove to his second career win at the track. He became the first NASCAR Busch Series Kentucky pole sitter to grab a win at the facility. He also took a 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory in Kentucky.

Despite the presence of eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regulars in tonight's "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" field, Gilliland remains among the top title contenders. He led the series rookie practice yesterday with a 177.690 mph (30.390 seconds) lap and also was third in the series first full practice session after driving a 174.797 mph (30.893 seconds) lap. Gilliland ended his first day at Kentucky Speedway 29th in the series "Happy Hour" final practice.

"I've never had a car like this before," he said. "This racecar is awesome. To come here for the first time and have this kind of success in practice and then qualifying is a great feeling for the team and ownership. I'm looking forward to tonight."

The "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" is sold out for the sixth consecutive year. Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback Carson Palmer is the race honorary starter and Miss USA Tara Elizabeth Conner will be the race grand marshal.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~