Matt Kenseth was tops during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Kansas Speedway on Friday evening, turning in a 28.145-second lap to claim the pole for Sunday’s STP 400.
“It’s not me, it’s everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), JGR and Jason Ratcliff and the boys,” Kenseth said. “Thank (sponsors) Home Depot, Husky Tools and Dollar General. This thing was kind of a struggle most of the day. I felt like I wasn’t giving Jason really the best feedback and they made awesome adjustments for qualifying — it was pretty bad to the bone.”
While Kenseth was quick to give credit elsewhere, his crew chief was quick to point out the driver’s Kansas success.
“Matt is the only Sprint Cup driver to have won on the new track configuration at Kansas so I’m really looking forward to this weekend,” crew chief Jason Ratcliff said. “Who else would you like to have in your car than the guy who visited Victory Lane already?”
Kenseth will be joined at the front of Sunday’s starting grid by a former teammate and his replacement at Roush Fenway Racing. Carl Edwards qualified second, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took third.
“Man, I really wanted to be on the pole,” Edwards, who held the provisional pole spot before Kenseth made his qualifying attempt, said. “This car is fast. It’s gonna be a great race on Sunday, and I feel like our guys have done a really good job with our test here and what we’ve prepared for the race, so you never know.”
Ford took three of the top-four spots in qualifying, with Sam Hornish Jr. joining fellow Ford drivers Edwards and Stenhouse up front by qualifying fourth. Kenseth’s fellow-Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota teammate Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five in qualifying.
Ryan Newman was the highest-qualifying Chevrolet driver, posting the ninth-fastest lap. Other drivers in the top-10 included Aric Almirola in sixth, Martin Truex Jr. in seventh, Mark Martin eighth and Clint Bowyer 10th.
At leas a couple of drivers encountered problems during qualifying, including reigning series champion, Brad Keselowski.
“My seat belts came undone,” Keselowski said. It was just one of those weird deals, so I had a chance and I fixed it and got back going.”
As a result, Keselowski wound up 33rd.
Jeff Gordon spun on his first time lap and hit the wall. He’ll start in the back in a backup car on Sunday.
“I was committed,” Gordon said. “We have been tight, and I wasn’t tight. It felt great coming to the green and I was pretty happy with it through (turns) three and four and I got down into (turns) one and two and I arced it in there just the way I wanted to and got to the yellow line and started picking up the throttle and it just slowly came around. For a second I thought I was going to save it. I lit the tires up to keep it from hitting too hard and now we have a car and an engine that are pretty much done and it’s been a while since I wrecked qualifying.”
With 44 drivers making qualifying attempts, Joe Nemechek was the one driver unable to secure a spot on the starting grid.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR