By Nancy Knapp Schilke
Matt Kenseth captured the Las Vegas pole for the third round of competition for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. With a lap time of 28.589 (188.88 mph), Kenseth took the top honors by 0.109 seconds over Marcos Ambrose who held the provisional pole with a time of 28.698 (188.166 mph).
It feels great to get on the pole and we don't get them very often so it feels great to get one.
Roush Fenway Racing's driver also set a new track record on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval and lead the way for a strong performance by the team. Teammate Carl Edwards was third followed by Greg Biffle fourth fastest. But for Ford it was not only a sweep of the podium but the manufacturer claimed the top four.
"Five poles in 12 years, that is a little better than I thought," said Kenseth. "It is good to be on pole and I look forward to the race on Sunday. We worked really hard on race practice today and had a lot of speed and in qualifying trim we obviously had a lot of speed. This new qualifying format is kind of nerve racking if you are the fastest car in practice because you are back there watching these guys and you start to feel like you don't want to mess this up. It feels great to get on the pole and we don't get them very often so it feels great to get one."
Ambrose has the top speed on the scoreboard in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford but had to settle for second and will start Sunday's race on the front row. To top off a good day for the team, A.J. Allmendinger slotted seventh on the grid.
"It is just a great day for us," smiled Ambrose. "I have been second a few times now in my cup career in qualifying so I have been bumped out several times and it never feels any nicer. I am really pleased today. Matt [Kenseth] did a great lap and you can't complain when someone beats you on speed. It isn't like he lucked into it. He had the fastest car in practice and he delivered when it counted.
"I am just happy for Richard Petty Motorsports who went through a lot at the end of last year. To be strong this early with AJ [Allmendinger] running top three in points it is just a good feeling over there looking forward to hopefully keeping this run going," added Ambrose.
Edwards clocked a 28.704 (188.127 mph) followed by Biffle with a 28.728 (187.970 mph).
"It is good that the first two rows are Fords," Edwards said. "That is a testament to how hard our guys are working at the shop and Doug Yates and everyone with the FR9 engine they have done an amazing job. We talked about earlier that we wanted to see how we ran in this first 1.5 mile that would be a little bit of a test for the rest of the season. So far it looks really good. I am excited about the race trim tomorrow and we will see how we run in race trim but this is great for us."
Kyle Busch and teammate Joey Logano were fifth and sixth fastest for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team. Busch and his brother Kurt are racing in their hometown where both have had success and let downs. Kurt Busch was the qualifying lap record holder until Kenseth's fast lap today.
"We've been a little behind the eight ball so far this weekend with our Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Camry," said Kyle Busch. "It's coming along. The guys made some really good adjustments there and the car drove a lot better. Hopefully we can carry some of those into tomorrow and get a good race practice and get after them on Sunday. It seems to be like a good lap, but it's all relative until others go out."
The best for Chevrolet came from the Stewart-Haas Racing team in with Ryan Newman taking the eighth spot for the Kobalt Tools 400.
Rounding out the top 10 were Martin Truex Jr. (Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota) and Mark Martin (Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet).