Darlington Record for Kenseth
Matt Kenseth earned his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of his career Friday evening when he earned the top spot for Saturday night's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
After rain washed out Nationwide qualifying and pushed back the start of Cup qualifying, Kenseth went out and set a new track record with a lap of 179.514 mph. The lap eclipsed the mark set last year by teammate Greg Biffle.
"I didn’t think we’d have a serious shot at the pole," Kenseth said. "But our car was driving really good and, actually, for once when it quit raining I was glad that we got to qualify today.
"You can only go as fast as the car will carry you and (crew chief) Drew (Blickensderfer) and (team engineer) Chip (Bolin) and all these guys on the DEWALT team did a great job of giving me a fast car today, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night."
Seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon will start outside the front row after his lap of 178.861 mph.
"We put it in qualifying trim and the car really came to life," Gordon said. "That was a heck of a lap, man. But I tell you, Matt put down an awesome lap."
Ryan Newman qualified third with Sam Hornish Jr. continuing his recent surge with the fourth fastest lap.
"I've said it a lot lately, I couldn't be prouder of the guys on this Mobil 1 Dodge team," Hornish Jr. said. "They've been through some tough times over the last year, but they hung there because everyone knew that we had a race package coming that was going to make us really competitive.
"We haven't gotten our top-five or win yet, but we're heading in the right direction and there's light at the end of the tunnel."
Joey Logano rounded out the top five with his best qualifying effort to date in his young Sprint Cup career. His lap of 178.549 mph came on one of the hardest tracks to tackle as a rookie.
"I got it right this time and I knew it was going to be a good lap," Logano said about going into Turn 1. "I mean, we get the car to working in other places but that's been the hardest thing for the driver to get used to or at least for me."
Jeff Burton, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose completed the top-10 qualifiers.
Three-time defending series champion and two-time Darlington winner Jimmie Johnson spun and crashed on his first qualifying lap. He'll start from the rear of the field in a back-up car.
"I was pretty loose," Johnson said. "I didn't expect to be that loose. Track temps were down, and (crew chief) Chad's (Knaus) final words were, 'Go like hell,' and off I went and didn't make it back (laughs)."
Two drivers failed to qualify for Saturday night's race: Jeremy Mayfield and Scott Speed.
Saturday night's Southern 500 will take the green flag at 7:30 p.m. (ET) with live coverage on FOX and MRN Radio.