DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — By a narrow margin, Matt Kenseth edged out Ryan Newman for the top starting spot in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Kenseth, the series points leader, toured the 2.5-mile superspeedway in 46.781 seconds (192.386 mph) during Friday’s time trials.
Tony Stewart, Newman’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, was initially second after posting a lap of 192.361 mph, just .006 seconds off Kenseth’s run. Stewart’s time, however, was disallowed when inspectors found an open cooling hose into the cockpit of his No. 14 Chevrolet, the same duct work violation that had cost Austin Dillon the Nationwide Series pole earlier in the day.
Stewart will start from the rear, elevating Newman to the second position. In winning his first Coors Light pole award of the season and the eighth of his career, Kenseth was .008 seconds faster than Newman (192.353 mph).
With Stewart’s ouster, Kasey Kahne qualified third at 192.291 mph, followed by Greg Biffle (192.239 mph) and Jeff Gordon (192.012 mph). Bill Elliott, Casey Mears, AJ Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski (last week’s winner at Kentucky) and Marcos Ambrose will start from positions six through 10, respectively.
The pole was the first at a restrictor-plate track for Kenseth, the reigning winner of the Daytona 500.
It was an enjoyable, suspenseful qualifying session for the 2003 series champion, because Friday’s first practice — during which the qualifying order was set — didn’t reveal which cars had the best straight-line speed.
“The interesting think about qualifying, at least for me today, was nobody had any idea what the pole was going to be or how fast anybody was,” Kenseth said. “They lined qualifying up by first practice speeds, but that was drafting for everybody. . . .
“So you really didn’t know what anybody was going to run. That’s the same lap we ran during a mock-up qualifying run (Friday), so I was glad we were able to repeat that, but I didn’t know what anybody else was going to run. It’s kind of fun to watch, because you really have no idea.”
Robert Richardson Jr. failed to make the 43-car field. Elliott, making his second Cup start of the season under a one-off arrangement with Turner Motorsports and sponsor Walmart, was fastest among the drivers required to qualify on speed.