Martin Truex Jr. put himself on pole position at Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday's night's race under the floodlights, his lap of 28.366s (190.369mph) confirming just how improved the entire Michael Waltrip Racing team is in 2012.
“We've come a long way,” said Truex after claiming pole. "We can get to Victory Lane. We're going to do it soon. I feel good about this team. I'm just having so much fun coming to the race track and driving these cars," he said, adding: "We're going to make them proud here pretty quick."
As the unique Texas-based prize for claiming pole position, Truex Jr. wins a rifle. He said that he'd keep it, unfired, along with the one he won back here in November 2007, the previous time he started a race here on pole.
Matt Kenseth missed the top spot by just a third of one tenth of a second when all he running was done, but all things considered he said that he was happy to be on pole position all the same.
"That was good," he said. "I felt like I got it all out of there and we just missed it a little bit. Our car has a lot of speed we just don't have it driving exactly right yet. I had a couple different issues. A little bit of everything. It was a little too loose, but I had some other problems too."
Truex Jr. and Kenseth were two of just four drivers to record lap speeds above 190mph for the qualifying session, with Greg Biffle and Truex's MWR team mate Mark Martin also up to the task and claiming the second row of the grid as a result.
"That was all she had in her. It was just a hair too loose. I wasn't sure what it was going to be like down there in three and four with all the wind," said Biffle, who was clearly optimistic about his chances in the upcoming race. "We have a great car for tomorrow night so I am pretty excited about that."
Reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart hit the wall in the 90-minute practice 2 session that preceded qualifying. That forced him into the backup car for the rest of the weekend, starting with the qualifying session.
"Driver error," he admitted. "I just got loose and didn't have enough race track to get it gathered up."
In the battle of those who had to qualify on speed alone, Trevor Bayne put in a strong run of 28.695s (188.186mph) to start from 19th position while David Reutimann will start from 31st after a lap of 28.929s (186.664mph) on the 1.5-mile banked oval.
"I feel really happy with our run," said Bayne, who is competing for the Wood Brothers team in the Cup series but who will have to sit out this weekend's Nationwide Series race for Roush Fenway because of a lack of sponsors.
"I just couldn't get the gas down on exit," the youngster added. "I was trying to roll to it but I kept having to back off and pump it. That slowed us down. Any time you can't be on the gas wide open you are going slower."
The three drivers who failed to qualify on speed for the 43-car grid at Texas were David Stremme, Joe Nemechek and Stacy Compton.Full qualifying and Friday practice