Just one year ago, Matt Kenseth saw his race at Kansas end in disastrous fashion. Sunday he will lead the field to green at Kansas with his first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole of the season. Kenseth a two-time winner at Kansas put down a lap of 192.089 as the first car out in the final round to score the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, his first of the season, the 18th of his career and his third at Kansas.
“It’s nice to get a pole,” Kenseth said. “I feel like our qualifying hasn’t been nearly as good this year as it has been in the rest of the years I’ve been at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). We barely got it – it was by a thousandth, or something like that.”
“Round one we were pretty decent, it was off a little bit and then round three it was just right,” he added. “We almost got beat, but it was as good of a lap as we were going to run. They did a good job today.”
Kenseth was among three of four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas who will make up the top five Sunday. His teammate, Kyle Busch, who won here in the spring, led the lone practice session earlier in the day, the second round of qualifying, and will start second. Carl Edwards, who nearly missed advancing to the third round will start third, with Martin Truex Jr., whose team has a technical alliance with JGR will start fourth, followed by Alex Bowman, substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth.
“Well the driver really messed them up,” Edwards said. “I had to run an extra lap because I screwed up the first one and they turned a lot of bolts, air pressure adjustments and that last lap went as perfect as it could go. I know it’s not the pole – we have plenty of those this year, but I’m really proud of the effort, I think my guys did a really good job not quitting and getting a good starting spot for us.”
Three Chase drivers failed to advance to the final round. They were led by Chase Elliott, who was bumped out in the final minutes of round 2, tried to make a second run, but didn’t make the start-finish line in time; Elliott will roll off 13th Sunday.
“We just have to have our car driving good,” Elliot said. “A starting spot is one thing. We also have multiple laps on Sunday rather than just one to try and make your car drive good. It is good to have a good starting spot and it is important to have a good pit selection and what not…but if you can get your car driving good that will override it on Sunday.”
Jimmie Johnson is perhaps the only driver in the Chase without too much worry. His win last week at Charlotte secured him a spot in the next round. He too failed to advance to the final round Friday and will start 21st on Sunday.
“I don’t want to fall back on the fact we are locked in,” Johnson said. “We need to qualify toward the front. That is the only way you are going to create the best scenario for Homestead. We need to get qualifying under control. I need to get better at it. We are not taking it lightly that we qualified 21st, but I’m not too concerned about it. I am better at racing, than I am at running a single lap.”
A third Chase driver, Kurt Busch, failed to make the final round and will start 15th Sunday.
Kenseth led 153 laps last year at Kansas, only to be punted in the final laps to come home fourth. The driver who punted Kenseth and went onto victory, was Joey Logano. Logano struggled to advance to the final round, but rallied and will start sixth Sunday.
Logano will be followed by the fourth JGR car, Denny Hamlin in seventh. Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10 qualifiers. Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon will start 11th and 12th respectively as the last two of 12 to advance to final round. With 40 entries, no one was sent home. The full qualifying results can be found here, the lineup for Sunday here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 will be run Sunday. Live coverage will be on NBC starting at 1:30 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 2:15 p.m. ET.