Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth certainly took to his new ride in a Toyota this year. His former Roush Fenway Racing Ford teammate Carl Edwards joins Kenseth on the front row.
With a 28.145-second lap in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around Kansas Speedway on Friday, Matt Kenseth claimed the pole starting spot for Sunday's STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track. It's his second-career pole at Kansas. Kenseth can also make the claim of being the only winner, so far, on the current Kansas Speedway surface, driving a Roush Fenway Ford to victory lane there last fall.
“Matt is the only Sprint Cup driver to have won on the new track configuration at Kansas so I’m really looking forward to this weekend," No. 20 crew chief Jason Ratcliff said. "Who else would you like to have in your car than the guy who visited Victory Lane already?"
Although Ratcliff sang his driver's praises, Kenseth credited his new team with his performance in qualifying.
"It's not me, it's everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), JGR and Jason Ratcliff and the boys," Kenseth said. "Thank (sponsors) Home Depot, Husky Tools and Dollar General. This thing was kind of a struggle most of the day. I felt like I wasn't giving Jason really the best feedback and they made awesome adjustments for qualifying -- it was pretty bad to the bone."
He'll be joined on the front row Sunday by a former teammate -- Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. Kenseth's replacement at Roush Fenway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., qualified third in the No. 17 Ford.
"Man, I really wanted to be on the pole," Edwards said. "This car is fast. It’s gonna be a great race on Sunday, and I feel like our guys have done a really good job with our test here and what we’ve prepared for the race, so you never know."
Ford claimed three of the top-five spots on the starting grid for the STP 400. Sam Hornish Jr. qualified fourth for his first Sprint Cup start of the season in the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford.
Although Ford, overall, fared well in qualifying, the session wasn't exactly smooth sailing for everyone in the manufacturer's camp. Reigning series champion, Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford, was relegated to 33rd on the grid after an issue with his seat belts during his time on the track.
“My seat belts came undone," Keselowski said. It was just one of those weird deals, so I had a chance and I fixed it and got back going.”
Rounding out the top-five in qualifying was Kyle Busch, who qualified fifth in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Aric Almirola was sixth in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. A pair of Michael Waltrip Racing teammates will share the front row on Sunday, with Martin Truex Jr. qualifying seventh in the No. 56 MWR Toyota and Mark Martin eighth in the No. 55 Toyota.
Ryan Newman claimed Chevrolet's only top-10 spot on the starting grid, qualifying ninth in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Clint Bowyer was 10th in qualifying in the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
Keselowski wasn't the only driver to have an issue in qualifying. Jeff Gordon will start Sunday's race in the back in a backup No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after spinning and hitting the wall on his first timed lap.
“I was committed," Gordon said. "We have been tight, and I wasn’t tight. It felt great coming to the green and I was pretty happy with it through (turns) three and four and I got down into (turns) one and two and I arced it in there just the way I wanted to and got to the yellow line and started picking up the throttle and it just slowly came around. For a second I thought I was going to save it. I lit the tires up to keep it from hitting too hard and now we have a car and an engine that are pretty much done and it’s been a while since I wrecked qualifying."
Forty-four drivers made qualifying attempts, so only one failed to make the race -- Jo Nemechek in the No. 87 Nemco Toyota.