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Coca-Cola 600: Matt Kenseth takes first Sprint Cup pole at Charlotte

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth, right, is congratulated by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards, left, after Kenseth won the LiftMaster Pole Night trophy on Thursday, May 21, 2015 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. Kenseth will start from the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth, right, is congratulated by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards, left, after Kenseth won the LiftMaster Pole Night trophy on Thursday, May 21, 2015 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. Kenseth will start from the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

It took more than 15 years, but Matt Kenseth can finally claim a No. 1 starting spot in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kenseth led the final round of qualifying Thursday, with his lap of 194.252 mph easily giving his Joe Gibbs Racing team the pole position for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

In his 32nd career start at CMS, Kenseth’s Toyota set the fast time early among the 12 drivers in the final qualifying session.

It led to Kenseth’s second pole of the season and 15th of his career. He also took the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway in April.

Only Joey Logano’s Ford came closest to unseating Kenseth, but Logano’s lap of 192.836 mph was still more than 1.4 mph slower than the pole winner.

Carl Edwards, Kenseth’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, was third, followed by Greg Biffle’s Ford and another JGR driver, Denny Hamlin.

Quote

“My averages are way up. They were asking me before qualifying if I had a shot at the pole, and I was like ‘I don’t know. I thought we had already hit our quota for the year.’ So I wasn’t really expecting to get another one, but we doubled up.” – Matt Kenseth.

Worth mentioning

It was a bad day for Hendrick Motorsports in qualifying, with all five of its drivers failing to make it to the final round. Rookie Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne were bumped in the first round; Elliott was 28th-fastest at 190.335 mph, while a flat tire dropped Kahne (third-fastest in practice) to 33rd at 189.073 mph. The remaining cars – Jimmie Johnson (13th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15th) and Jeff Gordon (18th) – were eliminated in the second round. … Provisionals went to Cole Whitt, Josh Wise, David Gilliland, Brett Moffitt, J.J. Yeley, Matt DiBenedetto and Alex Kennedy. … Failing to qualify were Jeb Burton, Mike Bliss, Travis Kvapil, Jeff Green and Brendan Gaughan.

Quote

“It was a good effort for our team. Last year, our weak point in qualifying has been maintaining that speed throughout all three sessions. This year, it seems like we don’t seem to have much speed in the first session, but we’re getting better throughout. I’d rather be good in the last session anyway.” – Joey Logano.

What’s next?

There’s no action on the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday. The Sprint Cup teams will have their final practice Saturday afternoon. The NASCAR Xfinity Series teams will qualify Saturday morning for that afternoon’s Hisense 300.

Coca-Cola 600 lineup

(Car number in parentheses)

1. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 194.252 mph

2. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 192.836

3. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 192.733

4. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 192.226

5. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 192.007

6. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 191.884

7. (55) David Ragan, Toyota, 191.625

8. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevy, 191.272

9. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevy, 191.266

10. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Chevy, 190.322

11. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevy, 189.833

12. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevy, 185.414

13. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevy, 191.727

14. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevy, 191.714

15. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevy, 191.686

16. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 191.666

17. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 191.428

18. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevy, 191.354

19. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevy, 191.150

20. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevy, 190.954

21. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 190.826

22. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevy, 190.597

23. (27) Paul Menard, Chevy, 189.980

24. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 183.711

25. (95) Michael McDowell, Ford, 190.806

26. (9) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 190.779

27. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 190.597

28. (25) Chase Elliott, Chevy, 190.375

29. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 190.181

30. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevy, 189.947

31. (7) Alex Bowman, Chevy, 189.880

32. (40) Landon Cassill, Chevy, 189.847

33. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevy, 189.673

34. (13) Casey Mears, Chevy, 189.288

35. (51) Justin Allgaier, Chevy, 189.221

36. (46) Michael Annett, Chevy, 189.049

37. (35) Cole Whitt, Ford,

38. (98) Josh Wise, Ford, OP

39. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, OP

40. (34) Brett Moffitt, Ford, OP

41. (23) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, OP

42. (83) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, OP

43. (33) Alex Kennedy, Chevy, OP

Failed to qualify

44. (26) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 188.291

45. (32) Mike Bliss, Ford, 186.890

46. (39) Travis Kvapil, Chevy, 186.310

47. (30) Jeff Green, Chevy, 184.068

48. (62) Brendan Gaughan, Chevy, 181.165

OP: Owner points

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