In recent years, it has been unprecedented for Matt Kenseth to win a pole. However, since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013, the No. 20 has been atop the leaderboard plenty of times. Win the pole on Thursday he has swept the first starting position at Charlotte in both races this season.
With a speed of 194.532 mph, Kenseth slotted his Toyota nearly two-tenths of a second in front of teammate Kyle Busch. Joe Gibbs Racing is in a prime position to pick up its fourth consecutive mile and a half win as track position is critical in the 500-mile event in Charlotte.
“It was a heck of a lap, I knew we had a lot of speed, I just didn’t want to mess it up” Kenseth said of his quick lap. “I knew that it was pretty fast. I was able to get three good laps and I had it where I needed it in the end.”
This is the fourth pole of 2015 for the Wisconsin native, which sets a new career-high. On Saturday night it will be the 17th time in his Cup career that Kenseth has led the field to the green flag and his ninth since joining Joe Gibbs Racing.
The aforementioned Busch will slide in alongside Kenseth. The No. 18 team was quick in all three rounds of qualifying, but just could not outlast his teammate. Busch heads to one of his better tracks this weekend in seek of his first ever win in the Chase while being a part of the Chase field.
“I look forward to Saturday night being another good night for us,” said Busch. “I’ve been close before and have led a lot of laps here. I’ve finished second, I’ve finished third I don’t know how many times, but have yet to break through for that victory. Hopefully, it will come here on Saturday night and that would almost propel us to Homestead.”
Joey Logano led the Ford camp with a third-place qualifying run at Charlotte. Logano has seven career top-10 finishes at NASCAR’s home track and is looking to pick up his first-career win at the track on Saturday.
“It’s a lot of fun qualifying here at Charlotte,” Logano said. “You’re just on the gas so much when the sun goes down. I don’t know if we had two tenths, that’s the part that I got to look at a little deeper and try to figure out with our team. Third is a good starting spot, and we will have a good pit stall.”
The best non-Chaser on Thursday night in qualifying was the No. 16 of Greg Biffle. In 2015, Biffle has not had much to cheer about. However, during the Coca-Cola 600, also ran at Charlotte, Biffle picked up his best finish of 2015 with a second.
A third Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will start in the top-five at the mile and-a-half. The winner of the opening Chase race, Denny Hamlin will look to make it two consecutive wins on 1.5-mile tracks.
Prior to last weekend in Dover, the No. 11 had finished in the top-six in six consecutive races. Hamlin was caught a lap down to race winner Kevin Harvick last weekend.
Other Chasers lined up in the top 10 include Kurt Busch (sixth), the Coca-Cola 600 winner Carl Edwards (eighth) and Ryan Newman (tenth).
After leading 355 out of the 400 laps run at Dover, Harvick and the No. 4 team will start a disappointing 11th on Saturday night. The defending winner of the race will have to start a bit deeper than he needed to last year in order to try and capture his second consecutive Sprint Cup championship. Harvick has three career wins in North Carolina.
After just barely advancing into the second round of the Chase, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a solid day at the track. Earnhardt will start 12th, in one of his better qualifying efforts in recent weeks.
Brad Keselowski will start 13th, while Martin Truex, Jr. will start 15th. Truex led the most laps in May during the 600 mile marathon.
In Jeff Gordon’s final start at the site of his first win, the No. 24 will begin the night from the 23rd position. Gordon is going to some of his better tracks this round, and will need to be at the peak of his best performances or else it could be an early exit for the four-time champion.
The Chase race at Charlotte has been a critical event in recent years. If the winner comes from one of the 12 remaining Chase drivers they have a free pass to the third round of the Chase and won’t have to rely on Talladega in two weeks.