Kenseth claims pole for Coca-Coca 600 at Charlotte

Concord, NC ( - Matt Kenseth will start on the pole for a Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time after winning Thursday night's qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 -- NASCAR's longest race of the season.

Kenseth, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, made a lap around this 1.5-mile track at 194.252 mph during the final round of qualifying to earn the top starting position for Sunday's 600-mile race. He scored his second pole of the season and the 15th of his career in NASCAR's premier series. One month ago, Kenseth started on the pole and took the checkered flag at Bristol, ending his 51-race winless streak in the series and virtually guaranteeing him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

"I thought we had some speed in practice (held on Thursday afternoon), but we just never really had the balance or the perfect lap," Kenseth said. "We brought a different car than we had last week (in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte). Everybody at JGR has been working around the clock to get all of these cars done and get us better stuff. It was only one lap, and we have 600 miles on Sunday. It's a great place to start."

Kenseth's first pole at Charlotte occurred in his 32nd start here. He won his first career Cup Series race at this track in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600. His second victory here happened in October 2011.

Joey Logano, in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, will start alongside Kenseth on the front row after posting a lap at 192.836 mph.

"We were 22nd after the first round, and (crew chief) Todd Gordon made some good adjustments," Logano said. "I made some adjustments on my line and was able to get some speed out of our car. We were eighth on the next (round) and then second the last."

Carl Edwards qualified third and Denny Hamlin fifth to give JGR three of the top-five starting spots for this race. Greg Biffle from Roush Fenway Racing was fourth.

Hamlin won the all-star race five days ago.

Finishing sixth through 12th in the last qualifying round were: Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Kevin Harvick, the defending series champion, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon and Tony Stewart.

Jimmie Johnson, who has won at Charlotte a record seven times, including a victory in last year's Coca-Cola 600, qualified 13th. Johnson missed the cut for the third round by 0.048 seconds.

Also failing to advance beyond round 2 were: Kurt Busch (qualified 14th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15th), Kyle Busch (17th), Jeff Gordon (18th), Ryan Newman (19th) and Danica Patrick (20th).

Early in the opening round, Kasey Kahne experienced a flat left-rear tire, and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports crew was not able to change it, per qualifying rules. He could not return to the track for the remainder of that segment and ended up qualifying 33rd.

"We just had a flat left-rear," Kahne said. "I was loose and about spun out in (turn) 3 and was kind of wondering what the deal was. I knew we were really fast in practice. I came in, and when I got to the stall, it only had like five pounds in it, which is very low. You can't change them unless you advance to the next round."

Five drivers failed to qualify for this race -- Jeb Burton, Mike Bliss, Travis Kvapil, Jeff Green and Brendan Gaughan.