Texas two-step: Kenseth follows apology by winning the pole
In the fastest NASCAR qualifying session ever at a 1.5-mile track, Matt Kenseth won the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
Kenseth blistered the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway with a blindingly fast lap of 199.299 miles per hour in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
"It just amazes me every time you qualify here how fast you can run, especially when it cools off a little bit, and the grip level there is," said Kenseth, who earlier Friday apologized for wrecking Kevin Harvick a week earlier at Martinsville. "It’s incredibly fast. It’s amazing you can go around there with that much throttle in it."
All told 17 drivers broke the old track record, with Tony Stewart setting the new mark of 200.111 mph in Round 2.
In claiming his second pole of the year and 13th of his career, Kenseth put down a pole lap that was just 0.001 seconds faster than Jeff Gordon, who ran 199.291 mph in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Gordon, who leads the points, continued to build on his strong Chase performance so far. "It’s awesome," said Gordon, who has four top-two finishes in seven races in this year’s edition of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. "It feels good to be feeling this good in this position at this stage of the season."
Starting on Row 2 will be Jimmie Johnson in a second Hendrick Chevrolet, flanked by the Stewart-Haas Racing entry of Kurt Busch. SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart will roll off from Row 3.
Completing the top 10 qualifiers were Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Carl Edwards was 11th, just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The extreme speeds left drivers shaking their heads.
"It’s too fast," said Clint Bowyer, who will start 24th in the middle race of three in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Asked if he thought the speeds were too high, Gordon smiled and said, "Not until you hit something."
There were three rounds of qualifying on a cool fall early evening at Texas.
In Round 1, six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson stunned the field with a track-record lap of 199.734 mph, briefly the fastest lap ever run at a 1.5-mile NASCAR track. During this round, the only one of the eight Chase drivers who failed to advance to Round 2 was Brad Keselowski, who qualified 26th, his worst start at a non-restrictor-plate track all year.
"At moments like this, great teams have to step up and I believe we’re a great team," said Keselowski.
Also failing to make it out of Round 1, was Danica Patrick, who qualified 27th.
In Round 2, three-time Sprint Cup champion Stewart shattered the 200 mph barrier and the record Johnson set in the first round, with a lap of 200.111 mph in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin was lone Chaser knocked out in this round, qualifying 20th. Stewart’s lap stands as the new track record.
"I never dreamed you’d see a lap that fast here," said Kenseth. "It’s incredible."
VIDEO: Matt Kenseth goes after Brad Keselowski following race in Charlotte