NASCAR Cup: Matt Kenseth leads Toyota charge in Kansas qualifying
Matt Kenseth celebrates a pole at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 14, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Matt Kenseth claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of 2016 and the third of his career at Kansas Speedway on Friday, turning in a 28.122-second/192.089 mph lap in the third and final round of qualifying for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the second race in the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“It’s nice to get a pole,” Kenseth said. “I feel like our qualifying hasn’t been nearly as good this year, or as consistent, as it has been in the rest of the years I’ve been here at JGR, so I was glad to get it.”
Kenseth led a Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota dominance of Friday’s qualifying. JGR drivers Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards qualified second and third to give the Gibbs organization a sweep of the top-three starting spots, while fellow-Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. took fourth to give the manufacturer the top-four spots on Sunday’s starting grid.
Kenseth and Busch were the top two drivers in all three rounds of qualifying. Busch posted the fastest lap in round two at 28.106 seconds/192.130 mph, while Kenseth was second. In the opening round, Kenseth was tops with a 28.298-second/190.826 mph lap with Busch in second. Busch’s fast lap in round two was the fastest lap, overall, of the qualifying session.
“A good day to have all the JGR cars strong,” Busch said.
Alex Bowman was the highest qualifier from outside the Toyota camp, taking the fifth position on the starting grid to lead not only Hendrick Motorsports, but also Chevrolet.
“I’ve been really pleased with the car all day,” Bowman said. “The first round was a little bit nerve-racking; we were really loose, kind of out of nowhere. We weren’t like that in qualifying trip in practice. Greg (Ives, crew chief) made great adjustments; we picked up a bunch of speed and just got a little too tight the final round.”
Nine of the remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup competitors survived to round three to claim top-12 starting spots. Joining the JGR trio of Kenseth, Busch and Edwards and Truex in the top-12 were fellow-Chasers Joey Logano in sixth, JGR driver Denny Hamlin in seventh, Logano’s Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in eighth, Kevin Harvick in 11th and Austin Dillon in 12th.
All 12 Chase drivers advanced beyond round one, but Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson stalled out in round two, taking the 13th and 21st spots on the starting grid, respectively. Chase driver Kurt Busch qualified 15th.
“From round one to round two, the car was much tighter,” Johnson said. “We attempted to free it up, but I’m not sure some of those adjustments didn’t change the ride height of the car and affected the splitter orientation with the ground. So, maybe we were on the splitter a little bit.”
Below, is the starting grid for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway:
Row 1 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 3 — Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota)
Row 4 — Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 5 — Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 6 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet), Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet)
Row 7 — Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
Row 8 — Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford)
Row 10 — Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
Row 12 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Regan Smith (No. 7 Chevrolet)
Row 14 — Matt DiBenedetto (No. 83 Toyota), David Ragan (No. 23 Toyota)
Row 15 — Casey Mears (No. 13 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 34 Ford)
Row 16 — Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Chevrolet), Brian Scott (No. 44 Ford)
Row 17 — Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet), Landon Cassill (No. 38 Ford)
Row 18 — Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford), Cole Whitt (No. 55 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet), Joey Gase (No. 32 Ford)
Row 20 — Reed Sorenson (No. 98 Toyota), Josh Wise (No. 30 Chevrolet)