Kasey Kahne claimed his first pole position at the wheel of a Red Bull Racing Toyota, while Jimmie Johnson beat his title rivals in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Cup season finale at Homestead.
In only his fifth outing at the wheel of the No. 83 Camry, Kahne was able to make the most of the improving track conditions late in qualifying to beat the standing benchmark set by last week's winner Carl Edwards. His lap of 30.525 seconds was at an average speed of 176.904mph.
"That was the best qualifying run by far since I joined Red Bull," said Kahne. "I look forward to Sunday's race. It's going to be exciting being up front now, being in the mix with Denny [Hamlin], Kevin [Harvick] and Jimmie [Johnson].
"They're all going to be fast throughout the race. I'm just glad we are so far. Hopefully, we can stick with it tomorrow, have a good practice and be competitive in the mix on Sunday."
Just like a week ago, Edwards had been fastest in first practice and looked set to claim back-to-back poles before Kahne's run. The Roush Fenway driver, who won the season finale two years ago, will see the green flag wave from the front row, ahead of the Chevy of Earnhardt Ganassi's Jamie McMurray and the Wood Brother's Ford of the impressive Bill Elliot, who was fourth and by far the best among those having to make the field based on qualifying speed.
A third Ford Fusion made it into the top five with Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger taking fifth ahead of reigning champion Johnson, who came out head and shoulders above of his title rivals with sixth on the grid for the title decider. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had also been faster than both Hamlin and Harvick in practice earlier, setting the third quickest time while his rivals ended up 30th and 31st, focusing more on race setup.
"We came down really well organized with scenarios we wanted to work with on the car if the handling went a certain way, and stuff worked as we had hoped which was nice to see," said Johnson. "I'm excited about how we'll start the race and then I'm also looking forward to practice tomorrow. There's some work to do there – we'll get on top of things and have some fun."
Richard Childress Racing's Harvick had his usual qualifying, finishing the session down in 28th place, while Hamlin ran too close to the wall on his first lap, ending up a bit wide at the exit of Turn 2, which forced him to complete a second lap that wasn't ideal, either. The Joe Gibbs driver, who leads the points entering the final race of the year, will start from 37th – one place better than the spot he won from a year ago at this very track.
"Our car is going to be fine tomorrow, we know that." said Hamlin. "This is a track you can pass [on]. We're looking forward to that part of it. Friday has just never been our strong suit and so we gotta battle back again."
Greg Biffle hit the wall earlier during practice and switched to a back-up car for qualifying, while Michael McDowell and Patrick Carpentier both failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Car Time Gap
1. Kasey Kahne Toyota 30.525s
2. Carl Edwards Ford 30.556s +0.031
3. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 30.558s +0.033
4. Bill Elliott Ford 30.580s +0.055
5. AJ Allmendinger Ford 30.583s +0.058
6. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 30.598s +0.073
7. David Reutimann Toyota 30.603s +0.078
8. Mark Martin Chevrolet 30.605s +0.080
9. David Ragan Ford 30.626s +0.101
10. Regan Smith Chevrolet 30.644s +0.119
11. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 30.648s +0.123
12. Elliott Sadler Ford 30.651s +0.126
13. Matt Kenseth Ford 30.662s +0.137
14. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 30.672s +0.147
15. Kurt Busch Dodge 30.695s +0.170
16. Paul Menard Ford 30.721s +0.196
17. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 30.723s +0.198
18. Brad Keselowski Dodge 30.734s +0.209
19. Joey Logano Toyota 30.742s +0.217
20. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 30.747s +0.222
21. JJ Yeley Chevrolet 30.761s +0.236
22. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 30.796s +0.271
23. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 30.813s +0.288
24. Aric Almirola Ford 30.826s +0.301
25. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 30.830s +0.305
26. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 30.838s +0.313
27. Greg Biffle Ford 30.852s +0.327
28. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 30.870s +0.345
29. Joe Nemechek Toyota 30.876s +0.351
30. Mike Bliss Toyota 30.887s +0.362
31. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 30.889s +0.364
32. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 30.889s +0.364
33. Kyle Busch Toyota 30.937s +0.412
34. Casey Mears Toyota 30.948s +0.423
35. Andy Lally Chevrolet 30.951s +0.426
36. Dave Blaney Ford 30.954s +0.429
37. Denny Hamlin Toyota 30.962s +0.437
38. David Gilliland Ford 31.049s +0.524
39. Travis Kvapil Ford 31.055s +0.530
40. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 31.212s +0.687
41. Scott Speed Toyota 31.216s +0.691
42. Kevin Conway Toyota 31.629s +1.104
43. Landon Cassill Toyota 30.954s +0.429
DNQ Michael McDowell Chevrolet 30.962s +0.437
DNQ Patrick Carpentier Ford 31.320s +0.795