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Kenseth beats Gordon for pole at Darlington

by Pete McCole
Friday, May 08, 2009

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Matt Kenseth
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com

Matt Kenseth scored just his fourth career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole position on Friday, setting a record pace to claim the top spot for Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington raceway.

Kenseth’s speed of 179.514 mph was enough to break the track record set last year by his Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle, earning him his fourth pole since October of 2005 and his career-best start at the track “Too Tough To Tame”.

Gordon will start on the outside pole with a top speed of 179.514 mph, followed by Newman, Sam Hornish, Jr. and rookie Joey Logano.

Kenseth, not known for his qualifying prowess, topped three-time Darlington pole winner Ryan Newman and seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon for the top spot

“It was a great lap for us,” said Kenseth. “We made a lot of changes on our car today. We’ve been able to make it worse and we’ve been able to make it better and kind of feel what was going on, so I felt pretty good about that.”

Battling a slick racetrack infamous for being difficult to get a handle on, team were thrown for an extra loop after a torrential rain shower inundated the track just hours before the start of qualifying.

“The track did feel a little different than I thought it would,” said Kenseth. “That rubber was just a little bit slick, but it obviously had pretty good grip – especially in (turns) three and four.”

“I didn’t really know what to expect after the rain,” said Newman. “When the rain usually comes, it changes the chemistry a little bit and obviously cools the track off. So the way the tires adhere to it…it’s definitely different. I felt the car had more speed in it.”

Logano posted his career-best Sprint Cup starting spot with his fifth-place effort, an impressive effort despite his lack of experience at the track.

“Pretty much all I knew (about Darlington) was the amount I played on a video game, watched taped and talked to as many people as I can,” said Logano. “I came down here about a month ago with Cale Yarborough and he gave me a few laps around here. I felt like I did as much as I could to prepare myself coming into this.

“I talked to Kyle (Busch) a lot after the first practice just picking his brain about turn one and trying to figure that out. It was helpful, obviously.”

Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was the only casualty during the session, breaking loose in turn two and backing into the outside wall. Johnson was unhurt in the crash, but will have to go to the rear of the field in a back-up car.

“It’s a nail-biter, white knuckle experience qualifying here,” said Johnson’s teammate and car co-owner, Jeff Gordon. “I didn’t run my second lap just because it took everything I could to run that one lap. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking when I got out of the car.”

Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top ten qualifiers. Among those outside the top-35 in owners points to make the field were Max Papis, Regan Smith, David Gilliland, Brad Keselowski, Scott Riggs and Sterling Marlin.

Two drivers, Scott Speed and Jeremy Mayfield, failed to qualify for Saturday night’s event.

Lineup

POS CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Dewalt 179.514 27.394 Leader
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet National Guard ESGR / DuPont 178.861 27.494 -0.100
3 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 178.757 27.510 -0.116
4 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 178.744 27.512 -0.118
5 20 Joey Logano* Toyota The Home Depot 178.549 27.542 -0.148
6 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 178.510 27.548 -0.154
7 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 178.407 27.564 -0.170
8 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 178.400 27.565 -0.171
9 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 178.019 27.624 -0.230
10 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Bush's Best Baked Beans / Kingsford / Clorox 177.826 27.654 -0.260
11 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 177.646 27.682 -0.288
12 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 177.300 27.736 -0.342
13 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Cheez-It / Carquest 177.300 27.736 -0.342
14 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 177.039 27.777 -0.383
15 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 177.007 27.782 -0.388
16 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 176.911 27.797 -0.403
17 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 176.892 27.800 -0.406
18 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Old Spice / Office Depot 176.594 27.847 -0.453
19 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Stanley Tools 176.555 27.853 -0.459
20 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 176.423 27.874 -0.480
21 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 176.347 27.886 -0.492
22 113 Max Papis* Toyota GEICO 176.328 27.889 -0.495
23 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota Farm Bureau Insurance 176.264 27.899 -0.505
24 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 176.138 27.919 -0.525
25 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 176.050 27.933 -0.539
26 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Mountain Dew / National Guard 175.980 27.944 -0.550
27 96 Bobby Labonte Ford Academy Sports + Outdoors 175.968 27.946 -0.552
28 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Quaker State 175.735 27.983 -0.589
29 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 175.629 28.000 -0.606
30 171 David Gilliland Chevrolet TRG Motorsports 175.441 28.030 -0.636
31 25 Brad Keselowski Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 175.434 28.031 -0.637
32 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 175.266 28.058 -0.664
33 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 175.247 28.061 -0.667
34 12 David Stremme Dodge Star Trek 175.053 28.092 -0.698
35 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 174.860 28.123 -0.729
36 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Adaptive One 174.773 28.137 -0.743
37 36 Scott Riggs Toyota Tommy Baldwin Racing 174.724 28.145 -0.751
38 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Best Buy 174.525 28.177 -0.783
39 09 Sterling Marlin Dodge Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 174.402 28.197 -0.803
40 41 Jeremy Mayfield Toyota SmallSponsor.com 174.229 28.225 -0.831
41 82 Scott Speed* Toyota Red Bull 174.013 28.260 -0.866
42 34 Tony Raines Chevrolet A&W Root Beer 173.847 28.287 -0.893
43 98 Paul Menard Ford Schrock / Menards 173.088 28.411 -1.017
44 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge Valvoline Crew Chief Car 172.058 28.581 -1.187
45 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's - - -

+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie

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