Matt Kenseth had reason to smile today.
Sure, the weather at Kansas Speedway was wicked cold, but Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was wicked fast.
Never known as a great qualifier, Kenseth went out and claimed the pole for Sunday’s STP 400 with a staggering lap of 191.864 miles per hour, a new track record for the 1.5-mile Kansas oval.
It was just the ninth career pole for Kenseth in 480 career NASCAR Sprint Cup starts. And he knows he’s not that good on pole day, usually. “I wasn’t really expecting it,” Kenseth said of his pole.
After the qualifying session, a NASCAR official in the Kansas Speedway Media Center began to introduce Kenseth, saying, “We are now joined by our pole-sitter Matt Kenseth …”
Kenseth immediately cut the official off and quipped, “You don’t hear that very often, do you?”
There was no magic to the lap, Kenseth said.
“The car was really good, obviously,” said Kenseth. “… The car had a lot of grip, the motor ran great, and, man, that was a heck of a lap.”
Carl Edwards was second in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford at 191.748 miles per hour, a lap that was just 0.002 seconds quicker than teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who qualified for the inside of Row 2 with a lap of 191.734 mph.
“I guess we should all feel bad,” said Edwards, when told his former teammate Kenseth was historically a poor qualifier.
Sam Hornish, making a rare start in a third Penske Racing Ford, posted an excellent lap of 191.401 mph to take fourth place ahead of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, the hottest racer in NASCAR at the moment.
The second five was Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer. Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson was 21st, two positions ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Danica Patrick was 25th, with reigning series champ Brad Keselowski 33rd.
Jeff Gordon, the 38th of 44 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, spun out and backed his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into the wall at the exit of Turn 2.
“I was committed. I'm fine,” said Gordon, who will go to a backup for Sunday’s race and start from the rear of the field. “Unfortunately the car is not. I don’t know about the engine, either.”
The only driver who didn’t qualify was Joe Nemechek.
STP 400 Qualifying
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.