Kasey Kahne's lap of 19.496s (97.128mph) on Saturday afternoon saw him claim his second pole position of 2012 and the 24th NASCAR Sprint Cup pole of his career - and the first that he's ever claimed on the half-mile oval Martinsville Speedway, the shortest and slowest track on the NASCAR Cup calendar.
"I've qualified decent Martinsville before, but never a pole," said Kahne after clinching the top spot for Sunday afternoon's Goody's Fast Relief 500 Cup race. "I was able to pull it off, barely," he said, adding that it "feels good" to finally pull it off.
"It's a tough track to qualify and a tough track to race. Always has been one of my tougher ones over the years," continued Kahne after the qualifying session, which had been pushed back because of earlier rain in the area. "I'm glad we can start up front, have a great pit stall - that #1 stall. I think that helps throughout the whole race."
Kahne's latest pole position means that the Hendrick Motorsports driver ties with Jimmie Johnson, and in the current field only Ryan Newman can claim more in the Chase era with 31 poles to his name. But Kahne knows that he needs to convert Saturday's pole success into Sunday points-winning performance.
"Hopefully, we'll have a solid day," he said. "That's what we need to do. We've had great Fridays and Saturdays but just haven't put together a Sunday yet."
Kahne's time was a slender 0.016s faster than Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick, who will get underway alongside Kahne on the front row when the green flag comes out for what will be Harvick's 400th Cup race.
“We were a little bit too loose," said Harvick of his qualifying performance. "All in all, the car turned really well and that is really what we've been fighting so we fixed that problem. I don't believe that I had to let out of the gas much but it was still spinning the tyres."
Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer line up on the second row of the grid, with Newman and Brian Vickers right behind them on the third row - another impressive showing for Vickers who is car-sitting the Michael Waltrip Racing car this weekend while Mark Martin scales back to a part-time season in 2012.
Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Paul Menard comprise the remainder of the top 11, all of whom were within one tenth of a second of Kahne's pole time. The highest-placed Ford driver, Marcos Ambrose, narrowly missed out on that margin in 12th.