While Hamlin was scoring the number one starting position for Sunday’s sixth race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Johnson was able to only turn the 19th quickest time of the afternoon.
It was Hamlin’s second pole at Martinsville and the ninth of his career. He’ll shoot for his third straight win at the .525-mile track Sunday.
For Hamlin it’s the first step of his strategy to overcome Johnson’s 41-point lead in the series standings and claim his first career title.
“I think it’s all going to start today for myself,” Hamlin said earlier Friday morning. “I feel like if I can out-qualify the 48 I can potentially keep him from leading one lap. We spent all day working on qualifying trying to get the pole – trying to get that first pit stall because obviously we do feel like it’s very important.”
Hamlin's belief was by outrunning Johnson in qualifying he would have both the mental as well as strategic advantage for Sunday’s race.
“I think it’s going to be key for me today to try to out-qualify the 48, not worry about him specifically, but get the best lap out of my car and if I’m ahead of the 48 then I could possibly set the tone in whether he leads a lap or not,” he said. “That’s a 10-point swing. That’s a little bit of it. It all starts today and that’s where our strategy’s at.”
Marcos Ambrose qualified second for his fifth top-10 start of 2010 and his first in four races at Martinsville.
Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five.