WATKINS GLEN, NY (AP) — Denny Hamlin will start from the pole at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, the third time the NASCAR driver will lead the Cup Series field to the green flag at a road course this season.

Hamlin turned the two fastest laps in the final round of qualifying Saturday to edge William Byron for the top spot. Hamlin covered the 14-turn course in 70.392 seconds and reached a top speed of 125.298 mph. Byron was second at 124.961 mph.

“There were a few spots where I feel like I still could have got a little but more,” said Hamlin, who earned the 40th pole of his Cup career. “But you can’t nitpick when you’re that good.”

Starting near the front is usually advantageous on road courses, where passing can be difficult. Hamlin, though, is 0 for 2 from the prime sport on NASCAR’s serpentine courses this season. He started from the pole in Sonoma and finished 36th, and he started first at Chicago and came home 11th.

Michael McDowell, one of the best drivers on road courses this season, will start third a week after winning for the second time in his career. McDowell dominated the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Ty Gibbs, likely needing a win to make the playoffs, will start fourth. Two-time defending Watkins Glen winner Kyle Larson will start fifth as he tries to join Mark Martin (1993-95) and Jeff Gordon (1997-99) as the only drivers to win three straight in upstate New York.

AJ Allmendinger, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Busch and Corey LaJoie round out the top 10.

Chase Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, will start 15th in the penultimate race of NASCAR’s regular season. Elliott has two wins at the Glen. He also has seven career victories on NASCAR’s winding tracks, two more than any other active driver.

Elliott needs a win to make the postseason for the eighth consecutive year. The Hendrick Motorsports star has two races remaining to get it done — in New York or next week at the unpredictable Daytona International Speedway.

Thirteen drivers have clinched berths in the 16-driver postseason field, including former series champs Busch, Larson, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr.

Two more past champions, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, have solid holds on two of the remaining three playoff spots. Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suàrez are on the bubble and need a victory or help. Wallace leads Suàrez by 28 points.

Wallace will start 12th at the Glen, two spots ahead of Suàrez.