KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Matt Kenseth did his best Friday to erase his reputation as a poor qualifier.
Kenseth rolled to the pole for Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway, setting a track qualifying record of 191.864 mph in cold, windy conditions to bump Carl Edwards out of the top spot and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the second row.
“We didn't think we had a chance,” Kenseth said. “It's unexpected, and its one of the fastest tracks of the year. Felt great to go out late and jump over the other guys.”
Kenseth will be starting his 480th Sprint Cup race this weekend, but the 2005 series champion has only qualified first nine times — one of them came at Kansas in 2005.
Indeed, the man behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota has had plenty of success at the 11/2-mile tri-oval. Kenseth won the fall race at Kansas, and hasn't finished outside the top 10 since having engine trouble in the 2009 race. He's also finished in the top five at the track five times.
“It's always been something I would try to do well, qualify well, but it has been more of a focal point in the team,” Kenseth said. “I always tried, but now my cars have been faster.”
Edwards will be starting on the front row for the first time at Kansas after qualifying with a lap of 191.748. Stenhouse was bumped to third after spending most of the day with the quickest lap.
Asked how it felt to be beaten out for the pole by Kenseth, a poor qualifier, Edwards quipped: “The whole field should feel bad.”
“All the cars were fast,” Edwards added. “Track position is critical here so a good pit stall and good starting spot makes a difference.”
Joey Logano will start 22nd and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski will go off 33rd. Both drivers arrived at Kansas on Friday with their full teams after appealing heavy sanctions handed down by NASCAR for bringing unapproved parts to last weekend's race at Texas.
“It wasn't what we were looking for, for sure,” Keselowski said. “We didn't make it through the center of the corner with as much speed as you need to be fast, so we have to work on that.”
The speeds that were put up in the newest generation of cars over the recently repaved surface seemed to catch several drivers by surprise.
Kenseth brushed the wall with his right rear entering a corner during practice, and Kyle Busch slapped the wall later in practice hard enough that he had to go to a backup car.
Busch rallied to qualify fifth in his No. 18 Toyota.
Jeff Gordon said the track was “superfast with a lot of grip,” but evidently couldn't find enough during his qualifying run. The two-time champion at Kansas got loose between turns 1 and 2, headed up the track and backed into the wall to bring qualifying to a halt.
“I was happy through 3 and 4, we got down in 1 and 2, got to the yellow line and start picking up the throttle, and it slowly came around,” Gordon said. “We've got a car and an engine that's pretty much done. Been a while since I wrecked in qualifying.”