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Kenseth on pole at new-look Phoenix

Matt Kenseth claimed pole position for Sunday's penultimate 2011 Cup race, with Tony Stewart starting just ahead of Carl Edwards as the battle for the title heads to the wire.
Matt Kenseth picked up his third pole of 2011 - his best tally ever a single season - and will start the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway from the front row. That's the third time in the last five races that he's had a front row seat for the green flag.

It's Kenseth's seventh pole position in 435 career starts, and his best start at Phoenix, the previous high point having been from fourth position in April 2006.

His lap of 26.258s on the one mile oval was over a tenth of a second faster than AJ Allmendinger in second place, who continues to feature strongly in qualifying. This is AJ's fourth front-row start of the season, and he has started on the front row in three of the past four Phoenix races: he will be hoping to convert that to race success at last.

"It is really cool to have Ford with the first three cars and I am excited about tomorrow," Allmendinger said. "I think our car will be really quick. We were good in race trim and more than anything we have to see how the track plays out now." As well as Kenseth and Allmendinger, Ford is represented by Marcos Ambrose qualifying in third place alongside veteran racer Mark Martin in a Chevy.

But all eyes were on the battle for the Sprint Cup championship, which has come down to just two drivers - Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, who has a slender points lead of three coming into Phoenix. Stewart will start from eighth with Edwards on the row behind in ninth - but that arrangement could prove to be to Edwards' advantage as this hangs Stewart out on the still-unproven outside line. Edwards was predicting "a really fun race" ahead for Sunday.

His team mate Kenseth agreed with that to an extent: "The bottom is probably going to be an advantage to get started but it is still 300 miles and I think at some point in the race every car is going to be in the top groove for a little bit.

"The biggest keys to this race are going to be ... I think you start with qualifying and then after that it is pit stops and restart strategy," he continued. "The tyres don't fall off at all. They don't really drop off in speed at all. It is going to be who can figure out how to keep their car up front, who can be in the bottom on restarts and get good restarts and take advantage of the restarts when someone is in a bad position. I think that is going to be a big deal."

The unknown track conditions at Phoenix are on everyone's minds, as the track just completed repaving and reconfiguring over the summer. The main concern is the lack of grip when cars wander off the single groove that's been "rubbered in" so far, but Kenseth said the situation was improving with every session.

“There is still basically one good groove and it has widened out [from the] center of 1 and 2 off,” Kenseth said. “You can run side-by-side there. The middle of 3 and 4 is getting wide, but I don't think you can run side-by-side all the way around at a competitive pace," he said. "Hopefully, after the Nationwide race when cars are forced to run out there with two-wide restarts ... hopefully it will come in."




Related Pictures

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#17 Crown Royal Ford (Matt Kenseth) [Picture Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR]
Matt Kenseth won the Coors Light Pole Award for the 24th Annual Kobalt Tools 500 with a lap of 26.258 seconds, 137.101 mph. This is his seventh pole in 435 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. [Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images ]
The cars of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick (left to right) are parked in the garage next to each other during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday in Avondale, Ariz. [Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images]
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident in front of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, as Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, drives away during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, and Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, race into turn one during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, qualifies for third position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Truex, Jr. is third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, qualifies for 2nd position Friday, March 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Newman is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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A view of a decal placed on the #14 Code 3 Associates / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, driven by Tony Stewart (not pictured), during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (left) congratulates his son Chase Elliott, driver of the #25 NAPA AUTO PARTS Chevrolet, after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. This will mark Chase Elliott`s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 FVP/Menards Chevrolet SS finishes in fourth place and Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS finishes in fourteenth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS finishes in third place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS finishes in second place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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