Kenseth puts No. 20 Toyota on pole for Charlotte race

during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 8, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Oct. 8, 2015

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

CONCORD, N.C. – For a driver who keeps insisting that qualifying isn’t his strong suit, Matt Kenseth continues to excel on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole days.

Touring the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in a blistering 27.759 seconds (194.532 mph) on Thursday night, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota earned the top starting spot for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 (on NBC at 7 p.m. ET), the first race in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Kenseth was .198 seconds quicker than JGR teammate Kyle Busch (193.154 mph), who put the No. 18 Toyota on the outside of the front row. Busch’s car is sporting a pink paint scheme this weekend to bring attention to the work of his foundation in fighting breast cancer.

The Coors Light Pole Award was Kenseth’s fourth this year—a personal best for a single season—his second at Charlotte (and second consecutive) and the 17th of his career.

Kenseth didn’t have a perfect lap, but as he crossed the start/finish to complete the circuit, he knew he had a shot at the pole.

“It was a heck of a lap,” Kenseth said. “I knew I had a lot of speed. I kind of changed it up in (Turns) 1 and 2 a little bit, and I just got a little tight in the middle of (Turns) 3 and 4. I knew the car was fast. Our Dollar General Camry has been fast all day, and it was a lot of fun to drive.”

Kenseth gave the car and crew chief Jason Ratcliff’s setup much of the credit for his pole-winning effort.

“I knew it was going to be real fast,” Kenseth said. “I didn’t know we were going to sit on the pole by any means, but it had the feel and everything that I wanted. It’s funny, this place, if you can get it to drive just like you want, you can really perform well here, but it’s so hard to get that feel…

“But today he (Ratcliff) got it to drive that way. I was going to have to mess it up to not get it, as good as he had it there.”

Joey Logano (193.023 mph) qualified third, followed by Greg Biffle (192.947 mph) and Denny Hamlin (192.912 mph). With Carl Edwards claiming the eighth starting spot, JGR put all four of its drivers, all of whom are Chase contenders, in the top eight.

All told, Chase drivers grabbed nine of the top 12 positions on the grid, with Biffle, Jimmie Johnson (seventh) and Aric Almirola (ninth) the only non-Chase drivers able to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying.

Busch, who fought his way back into the Chase with a second-place finish last Sunday at Dover, was pleased with his effort in time trials.

“I don’t know—Matt Kenseth, he was better than me, that’s for sure,” Busch said. “He got more out of it than me, but our pink M&M’s Camry is awesome. We were able to post some good speed there. I’m real happy with it… and I’m looking forward to the race on Saturday night.”

All 12 Chase contenders advanced through the first round, but Brad Keselowski (13th), Martin Truex Jr. (15th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd) weren’t fast enough to make the final elimination session, which is restricted to the top 12.

Keselowski ran an identical lap to 12th-place Carl Edwards but lost the final spot in the third round on an owner points tiebreaker.

Josh Wise and Timmy Hill failed to make the 43-car field.