Kenseth wins pole at Texas, after Stewart tops 200 mph in second round

By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service

FORT WORTH, Tex.—With three races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Matt Kenseth made a statement during Friday’s time trials at Texas Motor Speedway.

After Tony Stewart set the fastest lap ever run on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway at 200.111 mph in the second round of knockout qualifying, Kenseth covered the distance in 27.095 seconds (199.299 mph) in the money round to win the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.

In winning his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Texas and the 13th of his career, Kenseth edged Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leader Jeff Gordon (199.291 mph) by .001 seconds, after Gordon ran what he described as an overly conservative lap.

Jimmie Johnson (198.983 mph) will start third in the second race of the Chase’s Eliminator Round, followed by Kurt Busch (198.910 mph in his first qualifying session with new crew chief Tony Gibson) and Kevin Harvick (198.836 mph).

Stewart was sixth fastest in the final round after leading a parade of drivers who bettered the previous track record of 198.282 mph Harvick had set in April.

Having advanced to the Eliminator Round without winning a race this season, Kenseth tested during the week at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where his team found some additional speed that translated to Texas.

“We’ve got to get in practice (Saturday) and hopefully get it driving as good as it drove tonight for the race,” Kenseth said of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, “because 500 miles is way different than qualifying.

“But I thought we had a pretty good test at Homestead, and we stumbled on some things late that seemed to bring us up a step and bring us closer to the best guys. You never really know until you get through practice and get the race rolling and see what you’ve got.”

Stewart said his record lap, which took 26.985 seconds to complete, could have been even better.

“We were going to be probably down to a 26.75 or 26.80 if I would have finished getting through (Turn) 4,” Stewart said. “I got real tight and had to lift all the way out of the gas in the first round and still ran a 27.10, so it was going to be a big monster lap in the first round, but that’s not the one that pays.

“We hit it the second round, and I missed it in the third round--my fault.”

Likely needing a victory to advance to the season finale at Homestead, Brad Keselowski failed to advance to the second round and will start 26th on Sunday. Nevertheless, Keselowski was confident in the quality of his car in race trim.

“I’m optimistic we can (win) in this round, and the reality is it will probably take that, said Keselowski, who is seventh in the Chase standings, 31 points behind Gordon. “I completely understand that and am ready for that challenge and hope we have the speed to make it happen.

“The speed and execution… and I hope I don’t screw it up if we do. When it comes down to moments like this, great teams have to step it up. I believe we are a great team, and I’m ready for the challenge.”

Other Chase drivers will start as follows: Ryan Newman, seventh; Joey Logano, 10th; Carl Edwards, 11th; and Denny Hamlin 20th.


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