Richmond, Va. – Matt Kenseth aced the pole for Saturday’s 59th annual Toyota Owners 400, the ninth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the season. And he bettered the Richmond International Raceway track record with a speed of 130.334 miles per hour in the Dollar General Toyota. The former champion earned his ninth career pole.
The previous standard of 129.983 mph was set by Brian Vickers in 2004. In all, five cars broke the track record.
The Wisconsin native made his run after a trying week after the glory of his victory at the Kansas Speedway a week ago was completely overshadowed when his Toyota failed the post-race inspection. Subsequently, Kenseth, the Joe Gibbs Racing team and crew chief Jason Ratcliff were assessed with fines and penalties for the transgressions. Also, Toyota lost five manufacturer points.
“I didn’t think we had a shot at the pole,” Kenseth said after the record lap. “We were pretty far off after practice, and I don’t know how (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) does it every week, but we made a bunch of changes in the car. It was just enough and the car was plenty good. It is fun to start on the front row with the No. 11 Toyota (No. 11, Vickers) for Toyota’s race tomorrow night.”
Asked if he was giving it an extra effort after the adverse week, Kenseth stated, “When you only win nine poles in 14 years, you are fired up for all of them. But one of our goals this week was to come here and sit on the pole to quiet down a portion of the noise. I was chomping on the bit to get to the track this weekend given the JGR track record here.”
Vickers claimed the outside of the front row with a speed of 130.303 mph in the FedEx Delivery Manager Toyota from the JGR stable.
Jeff Gordon, who topped the charts in the last practice session, was third fastest at 130.252 mph. He drove the Driver to End Hunger Chevrolet.
“I knew I was close,” Gordon said. “I came across the line and I said ‘Man, please tell me that is it’ because I knew we were talking hundredths at this place. I drove into (turn) one really deep and just didn’t quite turn as good as I needed it to. I knew that was a good corner, but not a great corner so I tried to make up for it down here. I came up a little bit short, but still all-in-all a great day.”
Starting alongside Gordon in row four will be Kasey Kahne in the Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet.
Clint Bowyer grabbed the fifth spot in a Toyota with Juan Pablo Montoya sixth in a Chevrolet.
Seventh was Joey Logano, who had the fastest and only Ford in the top-10 qualifiers.
The Toyota’s of Kyle Busch, Marti Truex Jr. and Mark Martin rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 19th, Tony Stewart 21st, champion Brad Keselowski 23rd and Jimmie Johnson 26th.
Danica Patrick rated 30th fastest.
Forty-three entrants were present.