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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]
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace, Jr., driver of the #34 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota, poses with the Keystone Light Pole award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 25, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS qualified for 33rd position after hitting the wall Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Harvick, who is in the Chase, is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS qualified for 9th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Newman, who is in the Chase, is 3rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified for 13th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. Gordon, who is in the Chase, is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings.  (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS won the pole position and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS qualified for 16th position Friday, October 24, 2014 for Sunday`s  Eliminator 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. McMurray, who is not in the Chase, is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. This was McMurray`s 2nd Pole win this season. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, climbs into his car prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney and Matt Crafton confer. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick alongside the #10 GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing on pit road at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick driving the #10 GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Smithfield Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Crew members work on the Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, in the garage area during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch. August 20 2014. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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