David Reutimann backed up his tongue-in-cheek self-reference as 'The Franchise' at Michael Waltrip Racing by converting his growing confidence and improving performance into pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Reutimann turned in a lap of 28.344secs around the 1.5-mile high-speed intermediate oval to edge Cup points leader Jeff Gordon for the top starting spot in Sunday's seventh round.
Matt Kenseth qualified third, followed by Roush Fenway Racing team-mate David Ragan, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson and rookie Joey Logano.
Both Gordon and Kenseth revealed that they had raced through the third and fourth turns a bit more gingerly than they otherwise might have because of a strong tailwind blowing into the third corner, but Reutimann, on the other hand, didn't hold back in his #00 Toyota.
"I think those guys think about things a lot more than I do sometimes," he said, having added to his only other Cup pole from last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, "I just flip the [visor] down and go and pull the trigger and go as hard as I can.
"There could have been a tornado down the backchute and a hurricane down the front, and I would have not known one way or the other. I just ran as hard as I could go and as fast as I could go, and it worked out okay."
"I was pretty pleased with my lap," countered Gordon, who is winless in 16 starts at Texas, "With the wind gusts and the way it was, I played it a little bit conservative to get back to the throttle in three and four. We'd been fighting a little bit of a push, and it felt like the wind was contributing to it. So we flew through one and two and still put a really solid lap down."
For Kenseth, the qualifying lap was a vast improvement over a lacklustre practice session earlier in the day.
"We were 34th in practice, so I knew we weren't going to be on the pole, but it's a lot better than I expected for us to be," Kenseth said, "That was a great qualifying lap - but I didn't even dream we'd be close to the pole, to be quite honest with you."
Carl Edwards, who won both Texas races in 2008, will start 13th on Sunday, while Clint Bowyer, second to Gordon in the championship standings, rolls off 19th, one spot ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Joe Nemechek, rookie Scott Speed, Jeremy Mayfield, Todd Bodine and Scott Riggs failed to qualify for the race.
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service