Greg Biffle claimed pole position at Michigan International Speedway on Friday afternoon, his seventh career pole in 317 races and his first since Dover in June 2008.
"I tell you what, [crew chief] Matt Puccia and the guys did a great job with this race car," said Biffle. "The car drove good and we didn't have a lot to work on. That was a good thing. I had to get out of the gas a little off of two and thought that might be my demise ... It takes a perfect lap: weather, everything plays a factor. For me to get a pole, all the stars have got to line up, and they did today."
Biffle admits he very much needs a win at this point for his Chase hopes. "It is a big morale boost for the team to come here and run as good as we did off the truck and get the pole. We have to have a win to get in the Chase, that is obvious. Here, Bristol and Atlanta are good tracks for us. I think this is probably our best and this may be our best opportunity ... This is a huge deal for us and huge momentum for us going into Sunday."
His lap time of 37.826s on the two-mile D-shaped oval was 0.027s ahead of Matt Kenseth in second place, with Ryan Newman in third place.
"Honestly I wish I wouldn't have watched Greg's lap and saw his lap time," confessed Kenseth. "If I hadn't tried so hard I might have had a shot at it. That is pretty fast. I was loose coming to the green and drove into hard, too hard on purpose, to make sure my car stayed loaded up and tight enough and got in there a car length too hard. Other than that, it was a good lap for us."
"I felt like we had a really good balance, and a pretty good lap, good enough for third, obviously," said Newman. "Just proud of the effort and the guys on the team."
Denny Hamlin - who won at Michigan in June - qualified in fourth position, after making the unexpected decision to switch to Toyota Racing Development-built engines with immediate effect, after the recent announcement
that Joe Gibbs Racing would be switching to TRD from in-house engines as of 2012.
"It's a tough balance, because you have some employees that take a lot of pride in their work," said Hamlin, who has been hardest hit within the JGR stable by engine failures through the season. "We have to do what we have to do to make sure we finish races at this point. Being on the bubble, we cannot afford any DNFs. We're just doing what we have to do. I hate to say it."
Hamlin's team mates Kyle Busch (who qualified in 17th) and Joey Logano (lining up in 23rd) are both sticking with in-house engines for the remainder of the season.
Mark Martin - a five-time winner at Michigan - lines up with Brad Keselowski on the third row of the grid, while Watkins Glen winner Marcos Ambrose will start back in 16th position.
"I got loose getting up to speed coming to the green flag and I just spooked myself and pinched it off into three," said Ambrose. "I did the same thing here in the spring ... I am mad at myself. We had another half a tenth or so in the car."
Johnny Sauter (filling in for Robby Gordon), Erik Darnell and TJ Bell failed to qualify.
Full qualifying times and positions