---- — Hamlin wins pole at Dover
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Denny Hamlin has another top spot in his comeback from a back injury.
He'll need to turn poles into checkered flags if he wants to make a serious run at a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Hamlin turned a lap of 157.978 mph Friday to win the pole at Dover International Speedway. He won the pole last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway and has three overall this season.
But a four-race absence because of his injury has him needing wins to make the Chase and race for his first career championship.
Hamlin, who finished fourth last week, has never won at Dover. He has only a 19.6 average finish in 14 career races on the mile track.
Hamlin's fourth-place finish moved him up three spots to 24th in the standings, 53 points out of 20th position, where he'd need to be to be eligible for one of two wild-card berths.
"I feel like we're hitting our stride," he said. "We're running really well at different types of race tracks. Overall, I'm pretty happy. We still need to get those race wins."
Patrick sides with boss over boyfriend
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Danica Patrick sides with her boss over her boyfriend.
Patrick laughed at the idea that Tony Stewart (her boss) wanted to choke Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (her boyfriend) for blocking in last week's race at Charlotte. In fact, she might have helped Stewart put his hands around Stenhouse's neck. Patrick had her race spoiled when she was wrecked by Stenhouse in their first on-track accident since they announced they were dating.
If Patrick felt caught in the middle of the boss-boyfriend squabble, she didn't show it Friday at Dover International Speedway.
"Don't you want to choke your kids every now and then?" she asked. "I mean, everybody wants to choke their kids, or their dad, or son, or significant other at times. So, I think that is a comment out of love, no doubt."
Stewart has said he loves Stenhouse like family, so this was more like dishing out some tough love rather than the start of a feud. Patrick said she took the comment as a sign that Stewart actually wants to help Stenhouse, a Sprint Cup rookie.
"If there is anyone out there that he says something about, it's only because he knows they are going to be around and he wants them to learn how to play the game the way that he's learned how to play the game," she said. "It's actually a good thing that he wants to help and that he would speak up, because at the end of the day we see each other every five days, not every couple of weeks.
"You need to take care of those relationships or else they could bite you in the end."