Denny Hamlin Denny drives into Turn 1 during a NASCAR Cup Series auto racing practice session at Darlington Raceway, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Darlington, S.C. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

Hamlin wins the Southern 500 pole at Darlington Raceway

September 01, 2018 - 12:21 pm

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — The Latest from NASCAR racing at Darlington Raceway on Saturday (all times EDT):

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3:12 p.m.

Denny Hamlin's winning touch at Darlington continued Saturday as the two-time Southern 500 champion won the pole to try and defend his title. Hamlin had a fast lap of 173.571 mph to win his first pole at Darlington.

Kyle Larson was second and defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will start third.

Alex Bowman was fourth, followed by Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and William Byron rounding out the top 10.

Kevin Harvick, the series leader with seven wins this season, did not make it to the final round of qualifying and will start 22nd.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 20th.

Hamlin will be a big favorite Sunday night after sweeping the Xfinity and Cup series events here a year ago.

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1:50 p.m.

Ross Chastain has earned his first career pole in the Xfinity series when he finished on top in qualifying at Darlington Raceway. Chastain ran a fast lap of 169.531 mph to hold off Christopher Bell in second and Tyler Reddick in third.

Chastain and the others will be pushed in the race by plenty of NASCAR Cup series regulars. Defending Xfinity race winner Denny Hamlin starts in fifth. Kevin Harvick, with a Cup series-best seven wins, is seventh and Brad Keselowski ninth.

Chastain has had four top-10 finishes on the Xfinity series this year, the latest a seventh at Road America last week.

Qualifying for the Southern 500 takes place later in the afternoon before the Xfinity race is held to close the action. Hamlin is also the defending champion in the Southern 500.

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11:50 a.m.

Qualifying and the Xfinity Series race take center stage at Darlington Raceway.

Things will start Saturday with qualifying for the Xfinity event followed by qualifying for Sunday night's Southern 500. The day concludes with the Xfinity race, which has been won by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars in 13 of the past 15 years.

Denny Hamlin is the race's defending champion. He has won the event five times.

This is Darlington's annual throwback weekend, NASCAR's form of baseball's Old Timer's Day. Ryan Truex is running a paint scheme in the Xfinity race to honor his older brother, Martin, the defending Cup champion. The younger Truex's car looks like his brother's machine that clinched the Xfinity title in 2004 with a win at Darlington.

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