Joey Logano rebounded from his worst qualifying performance of the season to date last week at Talladega Superspeedway to immediately clinch his fourth pole of the year for this weekend's SpongeBob SquarePants 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.
Logano clinched the top spot with a time of 28.067s (192.397mph) in the final round of qualifying on the 1.5-mile track which put him 0.071s clear of Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne. It's the first time that Logano has taken pole position at Kansas, and in doing so he's the youngest pole winner in track history at 24 years, 11 months, 8 days old.
CLICK: Full qualifying and Friday practice times from Kansas Speedway
"It is cool to get another pole," said Logano. "Last year it too us pretty much the whole year to get one pole and we won a lot of first and second sessions and would fall on our face in the third session. It is good to figure out the third session and have speed in our car when we get there. You don't get anything for winning the first and second round. That is what I figured out last year.
"Pretty good when you are starting at the front because track position here is key," he added. "We have all seen what clean air can do to our race car. I feel like I have a fast AAA Fusion and in race trim it has good speed out there.
"This is an important race for when we come back here in the fall for the Chase so we want to make sure we have good speed in it," the 2015 Daytona 500 winner said when asked what his strategy would be for the race on Saturday evening.
"Just keep on racing hard and being aggressive like we do. That is what this team does best, attack. We have been able to since last year race that way and we will keep moving forward. We are fortunate to have that Daytona win and be able to race hard like that. We will keep pushing hard."
Second-place man Kahne was disappointed to miss out on pole position but considered himself lucky to hold on to the front row spot alongside Logano for this weekend's 267 lap, 400-mile evening race that will be held under the floodlights, weather permitting.
"In practice we were sliding around a little more than you want when you are running as much throttle as we are for qualifying runs," he admitted. "I know we have a good team and we are making the right adjustments to get the car a little more on the race track.
"[We] kept picking up each run," he pointed out. "Our last one was our best one, but it wasn't enough. It was a really good lap and my best lap of the day so I feel good about that and what we are bringing tomorrow night. We had some good practices today and [crew chief] Keith Rodden and the guys are doing a really nice job and hopefully we can bring that again tomorrow night."
Row two sees Logano's team mate Brad Keselowski line-up alongside Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr., who continues to be the model of consistency so far in his qualifying and race performances in 2015.
"It was really good, the car has been good all day," he said. "I thought we had a shot at the pole there; we were first in the second round. I just couldn't quite find the speed in the last round. So, the guys did a good job and we have a good starting spot for tomorrow night. This track has been good to me and hopefully we can do better than we've been doing. It's been good!"
Carl Edwards will start from fifth place, his fifth top ten qualifying performance since his move to Joe Gibbs Racing over the off-season, although he's yet to finish higher than tenth place in any of the races so far in 2015. He'll start Saturday's race alongside Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick, the reigning Cup champion.
Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle got his best starting position of the year with seventh place, putting him alongside Harvick's SHR team mate Kurt Busch who won two weeks ago at Richmond International Raceway and is keen for further follow-up success this week at Kansas.
"We had an eventful four laps of qualifying this time around," Busch said afterwards. "[We were] right on the brink of being eliminated in round two as the 12th place guy. We had to make an extra lap, so we didn't really get a chance to cool things down for that run.
"We survived and we learned a little bit about what we did in race trim and what that did to us in qualifying trim, so now we'll balance that out," he added. "We always have to learn something from qualifying and bring it into the race, and I think we did that."
Chip Ganassi Racing team mates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will line-up alongside one another on row five. It was also a memorable night for 18-year-old Erik Jones, who is making his official Sprint Cup Series début this weekend in the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing car. Having sensationally led the final practice earlier in the evening on Friday, Jones then managed to get all the way through to the final round of qualifying on his first attempt. He finally had to settle for 12th place on the grid, which put him alongside four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon on the sixth row.
Jones has already had one Cup outing this season when he took over the #11 JGR car at Bristol International Speedway when regular driver Denny Hamlin had to step out during an early rain delay suffering from neck and back spasms. While he was not officially credited with the race outing because Hamlin had already formally started the race, Jones' steady performance meant that team owner Joe Gibbs decided to fast track him into the #18 car as a stand-in for Kyle Busch who currently remains sidelined with a broken leg and foot, but who is expected to return to duty within the next few weeks.
Hamlin himself narrowly failed to make it into this week's pole shoot-out round of qualifying by 0.019s, meaning that he will start from 13th place alongside Richard Petty Motorsport's Aric Almirola on Saturday evening. The fourth member of the JGR squad, Matt Kenseth, will start even further back from 18th where he shared row nine with last week's race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. whose Hendrick team mate Jimmie Johnson who was frustrated to find himself starting this week's race from 19th place.
"We missed a little on the short run speed," admitted the six-time Cup champion. "We didn't post a fast lap in the first practice but our race run stuff looked good, it really did at the end. We had some high hopes from being seventh in the final practice and then just there we just didn't have the speed.
"We have qualified much worse and finished pretty darn well, so directionally we are going the right way but we just wish we had the magic want to fix the short run speed," he continued. "It would make our life so much easier starting up front and having a good pit stall pick.
"We will fire our way through there and grind it out like we always do and try and I am sure get a great finish out of it," he summed up. "But we know we need to get better on Fridays [in qualifying.]"
Other big names not able to get up the sharp end of the grid in qualifying include Richard Childress Racing's Ryan Newman (15th), SHR's Tony Stewart (16th) and Danica Patrick (27th), and RCR's Austin Dillon in 28th which put him one spot ahead of AJ Allmendinger.
"We were really close to wide-open right there and the car drove great, just need some speed," said Dillon who felt that he was struggling with a lack of power from his Chevrolet engine. "It's really frustrating because I feel like we have a really good race car. We were 14th in the second practice and 12th in the first practice and ran the same lap times every time we have been out. It's just frustrating and the Dow Chevy guys are working on things to figure it out."
David Ragan was also struggling to find the pace he needed this weekend in his first outing in the Michael Waltrip Racing #55. Until last week Ragan had been filling in for the injured Kyle Busch in the KGR #18, but Ragan has now moved to MWR to replace Brian Vickers who is currently indefinitely out of action with blood clotting issues: regardless of if or when Vickers returns to competition, Ragan has been confirmed in the car through to the end of the current season. Ragan was able to transfer from the first elimination round of qualifying at Kansas, but thereafter could do no better than 23rd.
Before being called up as this year's designated 'super sub', Ragan had originally started this season as the regular driver in the #34 Front Row Motorsports Ford. That car is now currently in the hands of MWR development driver Brett Moffitt who himself deputised for Vickers before Ragan signed on to take over the role for the rest of the year. Moffitt made the grid for Saturday's race albeit relying on owner points which put him in 39th place. The only non-qualifier this week was Brendan Gaughan who failed to make the 43-car grid and goes home early as a result.
See full qualifying and Friday practice times from Kansas Speedway