Kasey Kahne will start from pole position for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, his first time coming out top in a Sprint Cup qualifying session in 90 races.
The last time that the Hendrick Motorsport driver succeeded in claiming pole was on October 19 2012 at Kansas Speedway. In total this will be Kahne's 27th pole in 411 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts and his third at the two-mile moderate-banked speedway.
"Our Great Clips Chevrolet has had speed all three runs," said Kahne after clinching pole. "I knew we'd have a shot today, so that was cool. It's been a while since we've had a pole."
Kahne's pole-winning time was 35.645s (201.992mph) putting him 0.067s ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick. Harvick had earlier set an identical time to Kahne's pole effort in the second round but hadn't been able to quite repeat the feat when it came to the top 12 pole shoot-out.
CLICK: Full qualifying results from Michigan International Speedway.
"I don't know that I got everything out of it, but all the rounds were within seven-hundredths of each other," noted Harvick, who was runner up in last week's Cup race at Pocono Raceway. "The guys were doing a great job and Kasey just got a little bit better lap there than we did."
Not that Kahne was entirely satisfied with his pole-winning effort: "I got through 1 and 2 pretty good. I just got a little free but was able to stay in it. Then in 3 I was like, man, I was a little loose there and I've been back-pedalling more than I wanted to.
"So I pushed harder in 3 and I started to kind of slide the nose, so I had to back-pedal and go back down. I knew it killed my exit a little, but it was still a great lap," he concluded.
Behind Kahne and Harvick, row two will see Penske's Brad Keselowski joined by Joe Gibbs Racing's newest recruit Carl Edwards.
"It was a good lap," said a satisfied Keselowski. "This is one of our weakness tracks here at Michigan International Speedway. We are working on it and trying to get better. I honestly didn't think we would qualify this well. We came with some new stuff on the car which seems to be working. I am proud of everyone at Team Penske, Ford and Roush Yates engines for that."
"The ARRIS Toyota is pretty good and I thought I messed that lap up and it was still fast," said Edwards. "I think we have a good race car and now we'll just work on race trim tomorrow and hopefully be good in the race. There is some stuff we can work on, but qualifying trim is so different than race trim. It will be a lot different tomorrow."
Ryan Blaney will start from fifth place in the Wood Brothers #21, with Hendrick's Jeff Gordon alongside him in sixth. Row four is taken by Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon alongside the third Hendrick car of Jimmie Johnson.
"It's really all you can ask for to get better and better in the three rounds, everyone did a great job," said Blaney. "We didn't adjust enough for the last round. The tyres got tighter than I thought they would be. I didn't adjust track bar as much as I wanted to I was a little worried about being too free. It was a good effort for us. We needed it. We're excited about Sunday."
Last week's race winner Martin Truex Jr. was once again in solid form as he succeeded in locking up ninth place on the grid alongside JGR's Kyle Busch, with the top 12 rounded out by Penske's Joey Logano and JGR's Matt Kenseth.
"Wish we could have got a little more, but a top ten we will take," said Truex. "We made some adjustments for qualifying guessing on what the track was going to do. It seemed like it was getting hotter outside and then the clouds came back. We just missed it, we were too tight - we spent every run trying to free it up.
"Good adjustments by the guys and good recovery for sure," he added. "We had to go twice in the second round that is usually not a good thing, but here the tyres really seem to get faster as you run, so it didn't hurt us."
"It wasn't bad," offered Busch. "We were really far off on the first one and each run we kept making gains on it and kept picking up speed and getting the balance better on the M&M's Crispy Camry, but there on that last run I didn't have anything left so I actually slowed down some and hurt my time.
"Just not quite where I wanted to be," he admitted. "I felt like we could have been fourth or fifth or something like that, but after 400 miles here on Sunday it won't much matter."
Just missing out on the final round of qualifying were the final cars from the JGR and Hendrick stables, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who will start from 13th and 14th positions respectively.
"On the second run we just got too loose and wasn't able to be as aggressive with the throttle," explained Hamlin. "You really are on the throttle all the way around the track and you just have to crack it a little bit in the wrong place and you'll pay for it. It hurt our lap times a little bit and we missed it. Didn't get another run – we have to wait for our engines to cool and we didn't have time to make another run."
"Just another two tenths it looks like," said Earnhardt, mulling over the margin by which he missed out on progressing to the pole shoot-out. "We weren't holding the throttle down as long as those other guys. This place is pretty fast. You have to run a lot of corner speed and a lot of throttle. We just weren't able to carry enough throttle through the corner."
Also failing to get through the second round were SHR's Tony Stewart and Ganassi's Kyle Larson who will start from the eighth row in 15th and 16th positions. Danica Patrick will start from 19th place while her final SHR team mate Kurt Busch will have to get underway from 24th place after the #41 crashed into the wall during the earlier rain-interrupted practice session, sending the team to the back-up car for the rest of the weekend.
"Went down in there and was a little twitchier when it turned in and then it went full on left," Busch said on the radio after the wreck. "Sorry ... it's pretty much ruined."
Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Casey Mears, Sam Hornish Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all failed to make it through from the first round of qualifying. Not qualifying for Sunday's 43-car grid was Brendan Gaughan in the Premium Motorsports #62 Chevy.
As for the race itself, Kahne was quick to point out how crucial starting up front was likely to be come the green flag.
"It's going to be really important. The track is going to change a lot, though, come Sunday, with all the racing going on this weekend and then our practices tomorrow. The track will be a lot different Sunday. There will be some passing for sure, but it's not going to be easy, so track position will play a big role in being there at the end of the race."
The Cup field will get two more 55-minute practice sessions on Saturday to concentrate on race trim, before Sunday's 200-lap, 400-mile race gets underway shortly after 1pm ET (6pm BST).
Saturday afternoon will also see the NASCAR Xfinity Series Great Clips 250 race, while the evening will see the Camping World Truck Series drivers in action in the Drivin' for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park over in Madison, Illinois.
See full qualifying results from Michigan International Speedway.
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