Matt Kenseth takes final Sprint Cup pole of 2013, and his first one at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Homestead, Fla. – Matt Kenseth had the 19th fastest speed in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday afternoon but when it counted, he raced to the pole position for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale with a speed of 177.667 miles per hour.
Driving the Dollar General Toyota, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series contender registered his third Sprint Cup pole of the season, the first at HMS and the 11th of his career.
“I am always surprised when we are on the pole, and I haven’t been surprised too much in my career,” Kenseth said half-jokingly after his speedy run. “Qualifying is not normally my strong suit. Today, Jason (Ratcliff) had a plan, and I didn’t like it. He wanted to work on qualifying the whole time, but I don’t like to do that. I had him frustrated after the practice as I missed every corner with every mock-up run I made. But he did a spectacular job of helping me and making the right adjustments, and we got the pole and the best pit stall.”
Kenseth added that earning the pole was a confidence booster for his team and should Jimmie Johnson have a problem, it is best to be in the front in order to capitalize on opportunities presented.
Kurt Busch took the outside starting spot with a run of 177.445 mph driving the Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet. Said Busch, “We got a pole earlier this year at Darlington. It was very special day because it really turned our season in the right direction. Now we want to finish as strong as we can. One lap is good for qualifying but I'm going to give these guys everything I have for 267 laps on Sunday night to see if we can't win with this Furniture Row Chevy."
Newly engaged Joey Logano claimed the inside of the second row at 177.282 mph in the Shell Pennzoil Ford and teammate Brad Keselowski flanked him with a speed of 177.061 mph in the Miller Lite Ford.
Row three qualifiers were Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.
The Chase point leader Jimmie Johnson gained the inside of row four and Martin Truex Jr. starts alongside.
Johnson seemed neither thrilled nor displeased with the outcome, saying, "It was a difficult set of circumstances qualifying at night when you practice during the day. But I think we did a nice job adjusting the race car. We had a nice car in qualifying and a decent run."
Addressing the changing track conditions, he added, “This track has so many options and that's the awesome thing about it. In qualifying you don't have a lot of time to sort it out. It's really just one lap. Come race time, this place is so much fun because you can really run anywhere on the track and try to find a place to get your car to handle right. Qualifying is done and we'll go into race practice tomorrow and look forward to racing Sunday.
"We have a good point lead, which helps in some respects. The test session we had here a couple weeks ago has led to a comfortable day today. That helps put the nerves at bay. But come Sunday, the nerves are going to be there. You can't hide from them. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've accomplished.”
The ninth and 10th place qualifiers were Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler.
With 43 entrants, all drivers made the starting field.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 will be telecast live by ESPN at 3 p.m. ET.