Martin Truex Jr. got the pole, but Kasey Kahne got what he needed in Saturday's qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

With a lap at 184.149 mph, Truex will start from the top spot in Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at the 1.54-mile racetrack.

For Kahne, who qualified second at 183.497 mph, the front-row starting spot provides a boost of confidence for a driver fighting to hold onto one of the twelve positions in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Jimmie Johnson (183.358 mph) will start third beside team-mate Jeff Gordon (182.994 mph). Kyle Busch, currently 13th in the Cup standings and 34 points behind Matt Kenseth in 12th, qualified fifth at 182.771 mph.

Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, David Stremme and Denny Hamlin will start from positions six through ten, respectively.

"We unloaded with the car and kind of struggled for a little while, but we learned some things, worked on them through practice, and then we had a half-hour break and made a lot more changes, and the next practice the car just really came to life," said Truex, who won his second pole of the season and the third of his career.

"I felt real good about the car. I was happy with it, but when we made some qualifying runs, it was just OK. We made some more changes, and right there at the end I got pretty happy with the car, but we were out of tires, so we weren't really sure what we had."

After a disappointing 28th-place finish Aug. 22 at Bristol, Kahne is eleventh in the standings, with a 52-point cushion over Kyle Busch.

"I felt I could have got a little bit more in the middle of (Turns) 3 and 4 back to the start/finish, but I still don't think I would have went as fast as Truex," Kahne said. "He ran a great lap, but it'll be nice to start on the front row. It's a big race for us tomorrow night. We've got to figure out how to gain some points.

"I look at (Sunday) night as going for it, running as hard as we can, bringing the car home in one piece, getting all the points we can. And hopefully it handles, and things go right."

Meanwhile Erik Darnell, making his Cup debut, was slowest of the 46 drivers but he will still start the race 42nd on an owner points provisional.

Bobby Labonte, the driver Darnell supplanted in the #96 Ford, qualified 25th in the #71 Chevrolet. David Gilliland, unseated by Labonte, posted the 17th-fastest time in the #21 Wood Brothers Ford.

Regan Smith, Patrick Carpentier and Tony Raines failed to qualify for the 43-car field, while Terry Labonte got in on a past champion's provisional and will start 43rd.

by Reid Spencer / Sporting News



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