Jimmie Johnson claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of the 2012 season with a record-setting lap at Kentucky Speedway.
The five-time champion set the benchmark of a delayed qualifying session with a lap of 29.700 seconds, at an average speed of 181.818 mph.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch, winner of the inaugural Cup race at the venue a year ago, got closest to Johnson's time, ending up second fastest ahead of his team-mate Denny Hamlin, the most consistent driver on long runs during Friday's practice sessions.
"Very comfortable lap, very good lap," said Johnson after winning his first pole since September 2010. "Qualifying has not been our strong suit over the last two years, so very happy to get this pole today.
"I've had a lot of seconds and there's nothing more frustrating than a close second in qualifying but it all went really well and I think we've got a great race car in race trim as well."
Kevin Harvick was fourth for Richard Childress Racing while Stewart-Haas' Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.
Brad Keselowski was the best Dodge in eighth, following a clash with Earnhardt Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya at the start of the first practice, which ended up with the Penske driver hitting the wall and being forced to a back up car.
Keselowski clashed with the Colombian again during second practice, hitting the back of the #42 Chevrolet several times before officials waved the caution flags, interrupting the session.
Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle will line up 11th for Saturday night's event as the best Ford, followed by Australian Marcos Ambrose (Petty Ford), who suffered a spin early in the opening practice.
The session was halted almost halfway through due to severe winds while Montoya was making his qualifying run. The winds caused some damage in the garage area, blowing tents and debris while the grandstands were evacuated as a precaution.
Saturday's race is expected to be the hottest of the season thus far, track temperatures going well beyond 120 degrees Fahrenheit during practice before the sudden drop during the qualifying session.
Scott Speed was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 24th while Mike Skinner and JJ Yeley failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 29.700s
2. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 29.765s + 0.065s
3. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 29.810s + 0.110s
4. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 29.939s + 0.239s
5. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 29.944s + 0.244s
6. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 29.962s + 0.262s
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 29.963s + 0.263s
8. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 29.966s + 0.266s
9. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 29.994s + 0.294s
10. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 30.006s + 0.306s
11. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 30.041s + 0.341s
12. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 30.082s + 0.382s
13. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 30.111s + 0.411s
14. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 30.133s + 0.433s
15. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 30.155s + 0.455s
16. AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge 30.160s + 0.460s
17. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 30.169s + 0.469s
18. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 30.190s + 0.490s
19. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 30.212s + 0.512s
20. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 30.298s + 0.598s
21. Casey Mears Germain Ford 30.367s + 0.667s
22. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 30.371s + 0.671s
23. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 30.505s + 0.805s
24. Scott Speed Leavine Ford 30.594s + 0.894s
25. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 30.644s + 0.944s
26. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 30.687s + 0.987s
27. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 30.729s + 1.029s
28. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 30.749s + 1.049s
29. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 30.820s + 1.120s
30. Josh Wise Front Row Ford 30.843s + 1.143s
31. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 30.846s + 1.146s
32. David Stremme Inception Toyota 30.900s + 1.200s
33. David Ragan Front Row Ford 30.911s + 1.211s
34. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 30.963s + 1.263s
35. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 30.963s + 1.263s
36. Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 30.973s + 1.273s
37. Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 30.986s + 1.286s
38. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 31.122s + 1.422s
39. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota 31.359s + 1.659s
40. David Gilliland Front Row Ford
41. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford
42. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet
43. Stephen Leicht Circle Sport Chevrolet 31.190s + 1.490s
Did not qualify:
JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota
Mike Skinner Hamilton Means Toyota