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Matt Kenseth claims first pole position of the 2011 Chase

Matt Kenseth will start from pole for the first race in the 2011 Sprint Cup Chase, the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon, with Paul Menard alongside him.
Chase contender Matt Kenseth has had a deceptively quiet and drama free season to date, apparently cruising into the Chase without the fireworks of a Carl Edwards or a Kyle Busch, but without the high tension and nailbiting struggle of a Dale Earnhardt Jr. or a Tony Stewart.

But cometh the Chase, cometh Kenseth - and he stepped firmly into the limelight at Chicagoland Speedway by taking pole position in qualifying for Sunday's first Chase race, the Geico 400, which means Kenseth is suddenly firmly front and centre, with fans wondering whether it might just possibly turn out to be the #17's year.

"For me to qualify this good, you know my car is fast," said Kenseth, who set his laptime of 29.469s some time before the midpoint of the qualifying session. "We had a pretty good lap there."

It's Kenseth's second pole of 2011 and his sixth in 427 Cup race starts, and he's hopeful that the advantage may see him become the first Ford driver to break the engine manufacturer's curse on never having won at Chicagoland.

"I think starting up front is nice, having a good pit stall. Hopefully, you can get a good start and get a bonus point and try to keep up with the track a little better," he said. "I'm really happy to be on the pole, but it's just a starting position, and we've got to work really hard on the race."

Starting alongside Kenseth on the front row for the race is Paul Menard, the Richard Childress Racing driver who has been very much in the news this week after Jeff Gordon labelled his spin late in last weeke's Cup race "fishy" in the way it was timed to help his RCR team mate Kevin Harvick, who eventually won the race.

Menard and RCR have categorically denied that there were any team orders for Menard to spin out when he did. NASCAR have said they were looking into it, but today CEO Mike Helton said that he had seen "nothing conclusive" in the radio communications between Menard and his team.

"So far everything that we've been able to look at and listen to regarding the situation leads us to believe that there was nothing inappropriate done on the part of the #27 car in the Richmond race last Saturday," added NASCAR's spokesman Kerry Tharp later.

Beyond the front row, five of the top six gird positions are taken by Chase contenders with Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman on the second row and Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski on the third.




Related Pictures

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Matt Kenseth drove his No. 17 Crown Royal Ford to win the Coors Light Pole Award with a fast lap of 183.243 mph (29.469 secs.) to win the starting position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 17 in Joliet, Ill. This is Kenseth`s sixth pole in 427 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, burn out as Crafton celebrates winning the series championship and Wallace celebrates winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship in Victory Lane with the trophy, NASCAR President Mike Helton and sportscaster Krista Voda during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and placing ninth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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