New confidence gives Hamlin pole

DOVER, DEL.

Entering Dover International Speedway this weekend, Denny Hamlin’s greatest challenge was accepting the track.

It’s not that his record was terrible at the Monster Mile, but with two top-five finishes and no wins in 13 starts, it just wasn’t quite Hamlin-like.

OPPOSING FORCES

Hamlin’s chasing first title, Johnson his sixth. So who’s in charge? NASCAR Power Rankings

So Hamlin’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, devised a new strategy and enlisted his driver. If Hamlin bought in, that would be half the battle. And he did.

Hamlin responded Saturday by winning his first career pole at Dover with a speed of 159.299 mph.

Getting to this point wasn’t easy. Hamlin studied tapes of past races. He worked with a sports psychologist. He didn’t have the energy to worry about Jimmie Johnson’s history or probability at Dover. He had to concentrate on himself and have faith in his team.

“For me, I think that I have a lot more positive attitude going into this weekend,