Kasey Kahne will lead the Sprint Cup field to the green flag for the first time at Talladega, after his lap of 50.017s (191.455mph) put him less than a tenth of a second clear of Ryan Newman to claim his third pole of the year.

"I kind of held a line right around the bottom of the track where they told me to go and it worked," shrugged Kahne after setting his qualifying time. "It's my first pole at this track and at this type of a race track so it feels pretty good."

Asked what this meant for him in Sunday's Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 race, Kahne couldn't resist a quip: "It means I'm going to start first, that's it!" he laughed. "I think it means I will try to lead the first lap and just try to get that extra bonus point. If we are up there we might as well stay there and try to lead the most laps if we can. There will be a lot of lead changes I'd expect.

Related Articles

"I knew we had a fast car yesterday in the draft, it seemed really fast and could kind of go wherever I wanted," he added. "Today when I left the pits it just got up through the gears really quick and just felt good. It felt like the engine was running strong."

Kahne's drafting partner of choice for the restrictor plate running at the 2.66-mile superspeedway so far has been his Hendrick team mate Jeff Gordon, who qualified in sixth place and therefore is well placed to link up with Kahne early in the race itself to make things harder for the opposition.

"Felt good around Jeff Gordon, we were pushing each other and stuff," confirmed Kahne. "Things are good so far ... It just felt comfortable."

"If we can get together with them, great," said Gordon about the prospect of pairing up early with Kahne. "If not we just race and see when and how we can get hooked up with him or somebody."

Gordon started the last Talladega race from pole position, but explained that this hadn't been a realistic possibility this time because of how the running order for qualifying had ended up falling.

"Obviously being on the pole last time we were here we were hoping to be there again, but this late draw and the wind you just can't ever tell what is going to happen," he said. "We didn't get the pole, but it's still up there where we need to be."

While second-place man Newman is not in this year's Chase, his team mate and co-owner Tony Stewart most certainly is - and the reigning champion starts immediately behind Newman on the second row in the perfect set-up for some early drafting cooperation between team mates.

"We will try to do our thing up front," said Newman. "We will just have to see. It's a unique race and we want to be there at the end - whatever we have to do to be there at the end is what we will try to do."

Stewart meanwhile was hoping that he had a #14 chassis with the right pedigree for success at Talladega. "The only thing we can go off is this is the car that we won at Daytona in July with, so hoping that is going to be a good sign," he said.

Stewart lines up in fourth place alongside another of the Chase contenders in the form of Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer, who said that he was "like blown-away shocked that we're in the top three," adding that this determined his strategy going into tomorrow's race

"I thought, definitely going into today, my whole plan for the weekend was we were going to qualify poorly and ride around in the back," he confessed. "Well, we're in the front, and I'm going to try to stay there."

Meanwhile two more Chase contenders line up on row three - although both Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon's hopes of featuring strongly in the fight for the Sprint Cup have already taken heavy knocks in the opening rounds.

"We ran the top," Biffle said of his qualifying strategy. "It seemed like the fast guys were doing that, but just a little breeze of wind can affect you because it's so tight with the times up front.

"We thought we'd be a little bit faster than that," he admitted. "We thought we'd do a flat. We did a .95 yesterday, which is about what the pole is. So we're happy with a top five right now, but you always wish you were on the front row."

The current leader of the Sprint Cup standings, Brad Keselowski, could only manage 22nd place during qualifying, leaving him with some work to do to climb up through the midfield pack where small incidents can become big multi-car wrecks very quickly.

"You have to stay out of trouble, be solid on pit road and put yourself in a position to make a run at the end," agreed Keselowski. "I think we've proven that the only lap that matters is the last one ... We'll see how it plays out."

In the same position as Keselowski is Denny Hamlin, who will start just behind the Penske driver in 23rd place as the lowest-placed of the Chase contenders on Sunday's grid. Hamlin admitted that he hadn't found the key to success at restrictor place events and that he didn't have a set strategy in mind for Sunday afternoon.

"I haven't won a superspeedway race, so I haven't found that formula yet on these superspeedways of what exactly to do," he said. "Been in a lot of great positions with a couple of laps to go, but still the wreck always seems to find us.

"The strategies will vary," he continued. "A little bit of a mix of both [running upfront and dropping to the back.] It just depends on the situation I'm in, who's around and how crazy it gets out there."

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson had some advice for his fellow drivers, after qualifying in 17th place. "Don't crash," he replied, when asked for his Sunday gameplan. "Whatever increases my chances of not crashing. There really isn't a rhyme or reason to that."

Talladega is indeed known for some wild rides, and a major wreck here could turn the Chase outlook on its head. The main aim for Hamlin - and all of the Chase contenders - is to stay out of trouble and be there at the end come what may, but history tells us that that's not going to happen and some big names are going to fall foul of the superspeedway challenge before the chequered flag comes out on Sunday afternoon.

"I feel like there are more guys talking about racing throughout the whole race tomorrow than what there has been the last few times we have been here," said polesitter Kasey Kahne. "That is some of the Chase guys, there are guys outside of the Chase that have struggled maybe this year or had some bad luck this year and they could really change it around at a track like this.

"Yeah, I could see a pretty aggressive race at times tomorrow," he summed up, already thinking ahead to devising the best strategies he can to stay out of the inevitable wars when they come.

Although the Nationwide Series is taking the week off, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is in action this weekend at Talladega. Series rookie Ty Dillon claimed pole position for Saturday's Fred's 250 race in qualifying held on Friday afternoon.

Full qualifying and Friday practice times are available.