By AMANDA VINCENT
Matt Kenseth led a Joe Gibbs Racing trio of drivers to the top-three starting spots for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., with a 36.458-second/197.488 mph lap in the second of two rounds of qualifying on Friday. The MIS pole is his third pole start of the season of the season.
“Maybe the one, two, three, but I didn’t think I’d be in there,” Kenseth said of not being surprised JGR claimed the top-three starting spots. “This is all about Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and everybody that works on this Dollar General Camry and,really, everybody in Huntersville, N.C., that builds these things and TRD (Toyota Racing Development).”
Kenseth will share the front row with teammate Denny Hamlin, while fellow-JGR driver Carl Edwards starts third. All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers qualified in the top-10, with Kyle Busch just outside the top-five in sixth in the second round.
“Our FedEx Camry was great,” Hamlin said. “I’m really happy with JGR; we have fast cars and TRD really stepped up and given us some great horsepower this last year. I’m really proud of the effort.”
The JGR drivers were the class of the qualifying field throughout the session. In the first round, they were the four fastest, with Kenseth posting the fastest lap of 36.737 seconds/195.988 mph, followed by Edwards, Busch and Hamlin in the second through fourth spots on the scoring pylon.
Separating Busch from his JGR teammates in the final round of qualifying were fourth-place qualifier Austin Dillon and fifth-place Tony Stewart.
Hendrick Motorsports saw three of its four drivers advance to the second round of qualifying for top-12 starting spots. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up eighth and ninth on the starting grid Sunday, with teammate Kasey Kahne in 11th. Their teammate, Jeff Gordon will start 21st.
Forty-four drivers made qualifying attempts. Reed Sorenson was the lone driver to not make the race. His first-round qualifying lap was faster than three other drivers who got into the race on owner points.
Here’s the full starting grid for the Pure Michigan 400:
Row 1 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 2– Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota), Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet)
Row 3 — Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 4 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Row 5 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 6 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)
Row 7 — David Ragan (No. 55 Toyota), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 8 — Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 9 Ford), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
Row 11 — Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 14 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford), Justin Allgaier (No. 51 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — Jeb Burton (No. 26 Toyota), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 16 — Landon Cassill (No. 40 Chevrolet), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 83 Toyota)
Row 17 — Alex Bowman (No. 7 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Cole Whitt (No. 35 Ford), David Gilliland(No. 38 Ford)
Row 19 — J.J. Yeley (No. 23 Toyota), Brett Moffitt (No. 34 Ford)
Row 20 — Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet), Casey Mears (No. 13 Chevrolet)
Row 21 — Josh Wise (No. 32 Ford), Travis Kvapil (No. 33 Chevrolet)
Row 22 — Timmy Hill (No. 98 Ford)
DNQ (did not qualify) — Reed Sorenson
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