CONCORD, N.C. (AP) Matt Kenseth is back in a familiar spot at Charlotte Motor Speedway – sitting on the pole.
Kenseth will start up front Saturday night in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race after turning a lap at 194.532 mph Thursday night to edge Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
Kenseth also won the pole at the track in May for the Coca-Cola 600. He likes to joke that he doesn’t qualify well, but this will be the fourth time he has started on the pole this season and the 17th time in his career.
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”When they get my car to drive absolutely perfect, every once in a while I’m not going to mess it up,” Kenseth said with a laugh. ”Tonight it was pretty darn close to perfect. I was going to really have to mess it up to not” get the pole.
Joey Logano qualified third, non-Chase driver Greg Biffle was fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Among the other Chase contenders who’ll start in the top 10 are Kurt Busch in sixth, Carl Edwards in eighth and Ryan Newman in 10th. Kevin Harvick, who raced his way into Round 2 with a clutch win last week, will start 11th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12th.
Only three of the 12 drivers remaining in the Chase didn’t make it to the final round of qualifying – Brad Keselowski (13th), Martin Truex Jr. (15th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd).
JGR continued its dominance this season with four of its cars qualifying in the top eight.
”It’s what we try to do every week, it’s not a statement,” Kenseth said.
Kenseth is hoping for a better outcome this time around at CMS. He led just 26 laps and finished fourth in the Coca-Cola 600.
There is more at stake this time around.
Charlotte is the first race of the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and the race winner will get a spot in the next three-race round.
Kyle Busch said running up front is always important, but particularly at a track like Charlotte.
”It’s so fast here and you are carrying so much speed here, you are never in a good position if you’re behind someone,” Kyle Busch said.
Officials at Charlotte Motor Speedway painted lines on the race track this week to designate where the restart zone will begin and end for Saturday night’s race.
Typically the zone is marked by NASCAR with the lines on the outside wall, not visible to fans. However, Charlotte has painted the marks to make the zone clear for what has been an ongoing issue this season.
Last month, NASCAR assigned an official to monitor the restart zone at track level. It is also using in-race reviews to decide if a driver broke the rules.
Kyle Busch said he doesn’t have an opinion on it one way or the other.
”If the race tracks want to spend the money to paint the racetrack so be it,” he said. ”The guys that know how to do it right will do it right. The others who don’t know how to do it right sure as heck should learn.”