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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]
Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, Kenny Wallace, driver of the #26 JGL Racing Toyota, Ryan Sieg, driver of the #39 Uncle Bob`s Self Storage Chevrolet, and John Wes Townley, driver of the #25 Zaxby`s Chevrolet, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Earnhardt, Jr. is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates with champagne and crew chief Tony Gibson in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, wins, causing his crew to celebrate Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burn-out Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, April 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 26, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #20 Hisense Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #20 Hisense Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, 2015 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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