Matt Kenseth pulls off surprising pole win at Richmond

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 28: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Circle K Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 28, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

He was only fast when it mattered. Matt Kenseth scored the pole Friday and will lead the field to the green for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

It was Kenseth’s second lap, 22.300, 121.076 miles per hour, that came near the three-minute mark of the final five minutes that gave Kenseth his second Richmond pole, the 19th of his career, and his first since Kansas last fall.

“I don’t really get a lot of poles,” Kenseth said. “Any time I get a pole is pretty special in my mind

Ryan Blaney also put down a fast lap after Kenseth but missed the pole by just .041 of a second.

“We didn’t improve last year, we would go backwards.,” Blaney said. “This year we are improving round to round. It is just communication and knowing what we need to change in our car. That is something to be proud of. that is a lot of second starts now. I really want to race the Clash at Daytona. That is my biggest thing right now. it is upsetting me that we can’t get a pole.”

Martin Truex Jr., who led Friday’s lone practice session, will line up third followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who hit the wall in the second round but managed to advance and even held the provisional pole for a short time in the final five minutes. Joey Logano, who led both of the first two sessions and won two of the last four poles at Richmond, came up short in the final round and will line up fifth Sunday.

Logano and Kevin Harvick actually tied for the fastest speed in the first round, 120.870 with Logano getting the nod due to owner’s points. Harvick will start sixth Sunday.  Kyle Busch will start seventh.  Clint Bowyer who advanced to the final round after another tie; this one between Bowyer and Newman with Bowyer getting the nod again due to owner’s points.

Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Daniel Suarez and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 12.

“I think I have negative two stage points, whatever they are,” Kenseth said with a smile. “I think they’ve just taken some away because we’ve been so bad in races. Hopefully we can turn that around Sunday and stay up front, hopefully be in the mix for a win at the end of the day.”

With 38 entries for 40 spots no team was sent home. Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 will get the green flag just after 2:00 p.m. ET with live coverage on Fox starting at 1:30 p.m.

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