Matt Kenseth put himself in fine position to score a Sprint Cup sweep at Daytona International Speedway this season by winning the pole Friday for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400.
Kenseth turned a fast lap of 192.386 miles per hour to lead 43 other drivers in Friday evening’s time-trial session.
Kenseth won the Daytona 500 in February and could become the first driver in 30 years to win both Cup races in one season at NASCAR’s most famous track. Hall of Famer Bobby Allison was the last to make the double score.
“I never thought, especially early in my career, that I could run good here,” Kenseth said. “I never thought I was particularly good at it. Then we win the 500 this year, and we had a great race at Talladega.
“For our team, our confidence is high. You’re never sure what’s going to happen, but certainly we have a fast enough car to be in the mix.”
Tony Stewart qualified a close second to Kenseth at 192.361 mph, but his speed was disallowed because his Chevrolet failed post-qualifying inspection. NASCAR said Stewart’s Chevrolet had an open cooling hose in the cockpit, a violation similar to the one that knocked Austin Dillon from the Nationwide race pole earlier in the day. An official said the hose placement could produce an aerodynamic advantage.
Stewart will start Saturday night’s race from the rear of the field, and the team probably will face penalties next week.
Ryan Newman, Stewart’s teammate, had the session’s third fastest speed, and his car passed inspection.
Completing the top five were Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle.
In the second five were Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Casey Mears, AJ Allmendinger and Brad Keselowski.
Aric Almirola led practice but was 18th in qualifying.
The pole win, only the eighth of Kenseth’s career, puts him in the Daytona Shootout race for next season. He’ll race in that event for his new team.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.