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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.




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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]
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Fisher Nuts/Menards Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, signs the Coors Light Pole board after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, is interviewed in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 57th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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