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Matt Kenseth claims Sprint Cup pole in California

Matt Kenseth will start from pole position for Sunday's Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California, with Brad Keselowski claiming yet another front row spot.
Full NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying results from Fontana

Matt Kenseth claimed pole position on Friday for this weekend's fifth round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, the Auto Club 400 at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver posted a lap of 38.438s (187.315mph) in the final round of qualifying to clinch top spot from Brad Keselowski, who was just 0.043s further back. It's Kenseth's 12th pole in 513 starts and his first at Fontana, a venue where he's won three times in the past from as far back as 31st place on the grid.

"Track position is important, but I feel it is a track you can come from anywhere if you have the best car and get up through there and get some passing," said Kenseth. "This is probably one of the best tracks we go to as far as passing with all the different lanes unless you're stuck on the top.

"There's a lot of options here. This place is really wide, it's very challenging as a driver, but very fun as well," he said. "If your car is handling a certain way you can find a groove that can help your car and move around a lot - even in qualifying it was interesting how drastically different our grooves were when we qualified,

"It's a really fun race track, especially when your car is driving good and doing the things you need it to do," he added, praising his team and crew chief Jason Ratliff for their work on the #20. "hey gave me the car and really all I did was not mess it up, so they did a great job and glad we got it."

Friday's qualifying also continued a strong run of performances by Team Penske, with Keselowski now having claimed four consecutive front row starts since the new elimination round qualifying system was introduced at Phoenix at the start of March.

"I have had a lot of fun with this new format," Keselowski agreed. "I don't feel like a very good qualifier. It took me all three shots to even get in the top ten. Fortunately the last one was our best with getting us second and I am really proud of my team for that effort and adjusting on the car to get it where we wanted it to be.

"We have a lot of great momentum going and want to keep that up," he added. "Qualifying up front is always fun and always a great start to the weekend. There is more to be done in the race and we need to keep that going as well. I've had some really good races of late and happy where we are at. We are finding a nice flow for our team."

After having led the sole pre-qualifying practice session earlier in the day, Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson will line up in third place, while Kevin Harvick will be alongside him in the #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Harvick actually set the fastest lap time of anyone in qualifying, running 38.303s (187.975mph) in the first round when everyone was on brand new sets of tyres.

Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon comprise the remainder of the top six, while Keselowski's team mate will start from seventh place on Sunday.

"We picked up a lot from practice," said Logano. "After our first run I thought we had something to go on the pole there but we just didn't get faster. That is where we lost it a little bit because other guys got faster.

Kenseth's JGR team mates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch both failed to make it through to the final pole shoot out round and will start the race from 13th and 14th respectively.

With 43 cars entered for this weekend's event, everyone made it onto the grid - including Landon Cassill, who suffered heavy right side damage to the #40 Hillman Racing Chevy in practice and who was unable to run in qualifying.

Full NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying results from Fontana



Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s “Spring Is Calling” Chevrolet SS qualified 3rd Friday, March 21, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Johnson is 5th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS qualified 4th Friday, March 21, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Harvick is 21st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Rusty Jarrett for Chevrolet)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS qualified 6th Friday, March 21, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Gordon is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS qualified 15th Friday, March 21, 2014 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Earnhardt, Jr. is 2nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
The #2 Wurth Ford, driven by Brad Keselowski (not pictured), goes through technical inspection during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates setting the pole position in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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