KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kasey Kahne broke the Kansas Speedway qualifying record in winning the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the sixth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Then again, everyone else who turned a lap in Friday’s time trials also topped the old record on the smooth, fresh asphalt at the 1.5-mile intermediate track.
Kahne toured the speedway in 28.219 seconds (191.360 mph) to edge second-place qualifier Mark Martin (191.238 mph) by .018 seconds. The Coors Light pole award was Kahne’s fourth of the season, the 26th of his career and his third at Kansas, tying him for most all-time with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Clint Bowyer, who like Kahne hopes to gain ground on the top three drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup — Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin — grabbed the third starting spot with a lap at 191.130 mph. Kyle Busch (191.096 mph) qualified fourth, followed by Aric Almirola (190.988 mph).
You could argue, of course, that breaking a record doesn’t mean all that much on a repaved, reconfigured surface — in essence, a new race track.
What made the drivers pay attention, however, were the breathtaking speeds they achieved in topping Matt Kenseth’s old mark of 29.858 seconds (180.856 mph) from Oct. 8, 2005. On a cool, blustery afternoon, defending Cup champion Tony Stewart said the cars were running “stupid fast.”
And on a track where the second groove is not yet established and track position is at a premium, Kahne (fifth in the standings) has the opportunity to make a dent in his 35-point deficit to Keselowski, who qualified 25th. The same can be said of fourth-place Bowyer, who trails Keselowski by 28 points.
“I think it can be a pretty big (opportunity),” Kahne said. “I think those guys (Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe) will really figure out how to go fast in race trim. That’s what they’ve done all season long. They haven’t qualified great, really, this whole year, but they know how to race, and with strategy they’ll figure out how to get to the front if they’re fast enough to stay up there.
“You know you’ll see the No. 2 car at some point. They’ve shown that all season long. But for ourselves, we have a great starting spot, a great pit stall — a lot of things from today will help us throughout the entire race, not just the start of the race. So, yeah, I feel really good about where we’re at, and if we can capitalize and make the right decisions and get the right balance in the car, we can gain some points.”
Both Johnson (seven points behind Keselowski) and Hamlin (15 back) scored top-10 starting positions, with Johnson seventh on the grid and Hamlin ninth.
Cole Whitt, David Stremme and Josh Wise failed to qualify for the 43-car field. Danica Patrick posted the 41st fastest qualifying time but will start from the back of the field after an engine change on Friday.
Regan Smith, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. (out because of a concussion), got loose in the first turn of his first qualifying lap and lost momentum, ending up 39th on the starting grid. Defending Cup champion Tony Stewart will start 33rd, deepest in the field of the Chase drivers (Earnhardt excluded).