There was no question that the recent repaving work at Kansas Speedway had transformed how the NASCAR
Sprint Cup cars performed at the 1.5-mile tri-oval as they got their first run at the new-look circuit this week.
The previous lap record for the venue had been Matt Kenseth's 180.856mph effort set way back in 2005: but in Friday's qualifying session for this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400, every single one of the 46 cars participating broke that record - even the three who failed to qualify for the grid who were Cole Whitt, David Stremme and Josh Wise.
"It's fast, it's smooth, and it's a great track," said Kasey Kahne, who claimed pole with a time of 28.219s (191.360mph). "Our car felt really good. I came to the green as fast as I had throughout the practices. I got through one and two pretty good. In three I got in and then off of turn four I had to lift just a little bit, kind of lost the front tyres, but still was able to run a quick lap there and get the pole. I was really happy."
Kahne is hopeful of a good performance in the race itself on Sunday, which marks the beginning of the second half of the 2012 Chase.
"We have run pretty well here in the past so I've kind of always liked Kansas," he said. "I've liked how you have been able to move around and run a lot of different lines and things - I feel like this track will go there eventually. We will be able to move all over. It doesn't really feel anything like the old track, but we just had a really good balance today and we were able to put down a good lap."
As well as being repaved, the circuit has also added variable and increased banking to the configuration of the venue. But having such a radically transformed and therefore completely unfamiliar track at this critical point of the Chase could prove a major factor in who heads into the final stretch of the 2012 season still in contention.
"I think it's a bit of a wild card," agreed Kahne. "It's not a Talladega wild card, but it's a bit of a wild card because you have to pick up on the surface. The only thing to me is it is pretty similar to Michigan. The size of the track isn't but the surface, the corners for whatever reason I think it feels really similar to Michigan. The guys that are running well right now ran pretty well at Michigan - I would say they will figure it out.
"We had a great run today but everybody will figure it out for Sunday," he added. "We just need to try to stay ahead of them if we can."
Kahne's time was just 0.018s ahead of veteran campaigner Mark Martin who will join him on the front row for the green flag on Sunday. Martin's team mate at Michael Waltrip Racing, Clint Bowyer, will start from row two alongside Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch, making it three Toyota-powered cars in the top four.