CONCORD, N.C. — Denny Hamlin’s streak is alive.

Hamlin topped qualifying Friday night for the NASCAR Cup playoff race Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, marking the 13th straight year he has captured a pole on the top circuit.

“I knew the time was running out to get a pole because I hadn’t won one this year,” Hamlin said of his 25th career pole. “I wanted to keep the streak of winning one every year alive.”

Hamlin turned a lap at 191.598 mph in the No. 11 Toyota on the 11/2-mile oval. He’ll share the front row with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.

Hamlin has wins at New Hampshire and Darlington this year but has never won at Charlotte. However, he has always run well on this track, with 15 top 10s and seven top 5s. He attributes that success to things he’s learned from teammates, Kenseth and Kyle Busch.

“I love coming to this track because we do run really, really well here, so I’m glad to see it’s in the sweet spot of the playoffs where we can really make some hay,” Hamlin said.

Kevin Harvick was third, followed by Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is racing for the final time at Charlotte, qualified 23rd in a backup car after he crashed just moments into practice.

Kurt Busch will start eighth.

Busch wore a “VegasStrong” t-shirt under his fire suit to honor the victims of the mass shooting earlier this week in his hometown.

Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR champion who has eight victories at Charlotte, did not advance out of the first round and will start 25th. Johnson was considered a strong contender to win this race given his history, but the poor qualifying run may have dealt him a tough blow.

Johnson said it will be difficult to fight his way up through the field.

“I am disappointed with tonight and I am disappointed with how we are qualifying right now,” Johnson said. “We just haven’t put our finger on it. But we are working hard at it.”

FORMULA ONE: Championship leader Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest lap in a rain-hit second practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, but only five drivers set a timed lap.

After a lengthy delay, the Mercedes driver was quickest in the afternoon practice with a lap of 1 minute, 48.719 seconds, .799 seconds ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon.

Hamilton, seeking his third championship in four years, leads Vettel by 34 points with five races remaining.