MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Kasey Kahne proved once again that he’s a fast starter, but he’s still in dire need of a strong finish.
With a 97.128 mph (19.496 seconds) lap in Saturday’s time trials, Kahne edged Kevin Harvick (97.048 mph) for the top starting spot in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Kahne claimed his second Coors Light pole award of the season, his first at Martinsville and the 24th of his career.
Four-time Martinsville winner Denny Hamlin (97.003 mph) will start third after running the exact same speed as Clint Bowyer. Hamlin won the tiebreaker for the position based on current owner points. Ryan Newman (96.988 mph) will start fifth in the sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season.
In his first year in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Kahne has posted an average starting position of 7.8, but his average finish has been a disappointing 26.6.
“It’s a tough track to qualify and a tough track to race — always has been one of my tougher ones over the years,” said Kahne, who has led a total of 19 laps at the famed short track. “I’m glad we can start up front, have a great pit stall — that No. 1 stall — I think that helps throughout the whole race with track position.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a solid day (on Sunday). That’s what we need to do. We’ve had great Fridays and Saturdays but just haven’t put together a Sunday yet.”
Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano will start from positions six through 10, respectively.
Series points leader Greg Biffle qualified 27th as Ford drivers had a rough day at the .526-mile track. Marcos Ambrose led the Ford contingent with a 12th-place effort in time trials. Biffle, however, was more optimistic about the race itself.
“We feel like we’re pretty decent in race trim,” Biffle said. “Qualifying was our biggest struggle. It’s not where we wanted to be, but we’ve got 500 laps (on Sunday) to get there.”
The No. 37 Ford of Tony Raines failed post-qualifying inspection when NASCAR deemed the car too low. Accordingly, the qualifying time was disallowed, opening a starting spot for J.J. Yeley.
Scott Speed and Mike Bliss failed to qualify for the 43-car field.