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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]
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #33 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet, celebrates after taking first in the Xfinity Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #33 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads a pack of cars during the Xfinity Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #33 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after taking first in the Xfinity Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #33 Richmond/Menards Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag at the end of the Xfinity Series Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on at Road America on August 29, 2015 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #20 Hisense Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualifies for twelfth position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Larson is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for eleventh position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Busch is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, qualifies for tenth position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Johnson is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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