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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]
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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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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, April 24, 2015 for Saturday evening`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Harvick is the points leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Friday, April 24, 2015 for Saturday evening`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Allmendinger is 25th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for third position Friday, April 24, 2015 for Saturday evening`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Busch is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, finishes in sixth place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 3M Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place Sunday, April 19, 2015 in the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Wix Chevrolet SS, finishes in fifth place and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in seventh place Sunday, April 19, 2015 in the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, leads the field in a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing) and David Ragan (Joe Gibbs Racing) spin out during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Comcast Business Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 19, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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