Bristol, TN (SportsNetwork.com) – Matt Kenseth will start on the pole for
Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway after beating Brad Keselowski
for the top position in qualifying.
Kenseth, the driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, made a lap
around this 0.533-mile, high-banked oval at 128.632 mph during the final round
of Friday’s qualifying to earn his first pole of the season and the 14th of
his Sprint Cup Series career.
It’s the second time in 31 races that Kenseth has claimed the pole at Bristol.
He started first and won the night race here in August 2005. Kenseth has been
winless in his last 51 Sprint Cup start. His most recent victory in the series
occurred in September 2013 at New Hampshire, his first season with JGR.
“Our Dollar General Camry had some really good speed,” Kenseth said. “(Crew
chief) Jason (Ratcliff) and the guys made some really great adjustments. They
had the very best for the last lap, and we were able to put it together. Glad
we’re starting from the pole, and we’ve got some work to do tomorrow
(Saturday’s final practice) to get it ready for Sunday.”
Kenseth also won the summer night race at Bristol in 2006 and ’13, but has yet
to score a victory in the spring race here.
Keselowski’s best lap in the last qualifying round was clocked at 128.442 mph.
It’s the first time this season that the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford
will start on the front row in a Sprint Cup race.
“We’re reasonably happy with our day to qualify second,” Keselowski said. “You
get that close and it seems to sting a little bit more because it didn’t take
much to find the next place, but it could be worse and we’re thankful for a
decent starting spot.”
Carl Edwards, who is Kenseth’s teammate at JGR this year, qualified third.
Edwards won last year’s spring race at Bristol, in his final season with Roush
Kevin Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, took the fourth starting
spot, followed by Denny Hamlin, also a JGR driver, and Joey Logano, who won
the last night race here in August. Logano posted the fastest laps in the
first two rounds, including the fastest lap in the qualifying session at
129.290 mph, set in the opening round.
“It’s frustrating when you win the first two rounds and then you don’t really
make it happen on the third one,” Logano said. I just got too loose in the
last round. I’m mad at sixth, so at least that’s a good problem to have.”
Qualifying seventh through 12th were: Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard,
Jamie McMurray, David Ragan and Austin Dillon.
Kahne was the only one of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers who advanced
into the third qualifying round. Dale Earnhardt Jr. missed the cut for the
final round by 0.016 seconds. Earnhardt will start 13th. Jeff Gordon will roll
off 23rd after struggling in the second round. Jimmie Johnson, who won his
second race of the season last weekend at Texas, failed to make it out of
round one. Johnson’s lap at 126.146 mph earned him the 28th starting position.
“It’s just been a struggle,” Johnson said. “In practice, we were on one side
of it, and then in qualifying, we were on a different side. It’s a frustrating
Friday. Bristol can be that way for us. We always race a lot better, so we’ll
settle-in during the race and I think come out with a good finish.”
Brendan Gaughan and Ron Hornaday Jr. failed to qualify.