Matt Kenseth won the 13th pole of his career Friday night but much of the attention was on Tony Stewart . Kenseth won the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA 500 with a lap of 199.299 in the final round of Friday night’s three round knockout qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway. However, Stewart made history with a lap of 200.111 in the second session to become the first driver to run an average lap of over 200 miles per hour on a 1.5-mile track.
“It is always cool to be the first guy to be able to do anything,” Stewart said. “To be the first to run 200 mph average on a 1.5-mile is pretty cool.”
In the first 25 minute session, Kasey Kahne was the first out followed by Clint Bowyer . Kahne set a new track record, but it didn’t last long as Jimmie Johnson came out and set a fast lap of 199.734. AJ Allmendinger knocked out Chase contender Brad Keselowski with less than 7 minutes to go. Keselowski went out for second run to try to improve, but fell short of moving into the next round. He was the top name who failed to advance and will start 26th Sunday.
“That is unfortunate,” Keselowski said. “But there are 25 other guys out there that worked real hard and beat us so we will continue to work hard and try to be ready for the race.”
Carl Edwards led the second round, taking to the track as soon as the 10-minute clock began to tick. He was followed by Logano and Greg Biffle. It was Harvick though who went to the top of the board at the seven-minute mark with a lap of 199.893. It was Tony Stewart though who electrified the crowd with a speed of 200.111 with under five minutes to go.
In the final session, the top 12 waited as the clock started for the final five minutes. The first car didn’t hit the track until 2:50. That first car was the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota wheeled by Kenseth that headed out and set the fast lap, followed by Harvick.
“You want as much cool-down time as you could and obviously it’s getting later and the track’s getting better, “ Kenseth said. “Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) knows that I kind of stress out about that group qualifying — when you are going to go and when not to. So, he just tells me and I do what he tells me. He told me ‘there is nobody on the track, good clean air so just go.’ “
Edwards, Newman and Johnson soon followed. They took the green flag with 1:30 to go. Johnson hit the line with less than minute to go; he was second for a moment until Gordon took over the spot. Stewart, Logano and Kurt Busch were the last out, but none had enough to beat Kenseth.
Gordon’s time held for him to secure the second starting spot, Johnson will roll off third, Kurt Busch fourth and Harvick fifth.
“Matt (Kenseth) put up a great lap and I just was off by the tiniest bit.,” Gordon said. “I could go back over that lap now a hundred times and do it over again to try to find that one thousandth or two thousandths of a second.”
Stewart managed to grab sixth, Newman seventh, Martin Truex Jr. eighth with Kyle Busch and Logano rounding out the top 10. Other Chase contenders spots: Edwards will start 11th, Hamlin 20th and Keselowski 26th. With 43 cars entered, everyone made the field. The complete qualifying results from Friday’s qualifying session can be found here.
“We’ve been getting a hard time for not winning anything this year — so small victories I guess,” Kenseth said. “It’s pole night and that’s the best driving car I’ve had at an intermediate (track) all year by far, hands down. These guys did a great job, good adjustments throughout this qualifying — we got a little better every round and got that last lap just by the smallest of margins. I feel like as a group (JGR) we keep getting better.”
Live coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA 500 from Texas Motor Speedway get underway at 2 p.m. ET Sunday with the green flag falling just after 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. The full lineup for Sunday can be found here.