Matt Kenseth claimed pole position for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas with a new track record, as Ford drivers dominated Friday's qualifying session.
The 2003 champion was last in the qualifying order after pacing the opening practice session of the weekend, but he withstood the pressure to set a fastest lap of 28.589 seconds in his Roush Fenway Ford at an average speed of 188.884mph, improving nearly four tenths of a second from his best practice time.
Kenseth, a two-time winner at the track but not usually the best at getting the most out of his car on a single flying lap, beat the previous benchmark set by the Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Australian Marcos Ambrose, also breaking the track record for the mile-and-a-half banked oval.
"It feels great! Qualifying is not my strong suit but I knew we had a really fast car today when we did our last qualifying run," said Kenseth after winning his first pole since May 2009, and only the fifth of his Cup career.
"Honestly, this is the most nervous I have been before qualifying in probably five years at least because I knew we had a shot at the pole and I knew last week we really messed up. I didn't want to mess up a fast car today, so I was really happy with that."
Ambrose matched his best qualifying in Cup, breaking into the Roush Fenway domination as Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle completed the top four spots on the grid for Sunday's 400-mile race. Their teammate David Ragan had been second earlier in practice and ran right before Kenseth in qualifying but spun on his run, preventing a possible top-five sweep for his squad.
Kyle Busch sat on provisional pole for a while but ended up fifth, failing to continue the streak of the Busch brothers who had started up front for the past three years at their home track. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano was sixth in his Toyota while Stewart Haas' Ryan Newman was best of the Chevrolets in eighth.
Veteran Mark Martin, who is set to move up to second in the all-time list of NASCAR starts on Sunday, rounded out the top 10 as the best of the Hendrick drivers, two rows ahead of teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson – the latter a four-time winner at the venue.
Penske's Brad Keselowski was 20th and best among the Dodge drivers who seemed to struggle on the bumps of Turns 1 and 2.
Mike Skinner was fastest of those having to qualify on speed on 29th, while Brian Keselowski failed to make the field for the second week in a row after his shock qualifying achievement in the season opener at Daytona.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 28.589s
2. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 28.698s + 0.109s
3. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 28.704s + 0.115s
4. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 28.728s + 0.139s
5. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 28.790s + 0.201s
6. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 28.828s + 0.239s
7. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 28.838s + 0.249s
8. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 28.843s + 0.254s
9. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 28.846s + 0.257s
10. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 28.847s + 0.258s
11. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.864s + 0.275s
12. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 28.864s + 0.275s
13. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 28.892s + 0.303s
14. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 28.919s + 0.330s
15. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 28.950s + 0.361s
16. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 28.950s + 0.361s
17. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 28.960s + 0.371s
18. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 28.963s + 0.374s
19. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 28.980s + 0.391s
20. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 29.020s + 0.431s
21. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 29.024s + 0.435s
22. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 29.032s + 0.443s
23. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 29.037s + 0.448s
24. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 29.081s + 0.492s
25. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 29.100s + 0.511s
26. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 29.114s + 0.525s
27. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 29.155s + 0.566s
28. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 29.173s + 0.584s
29. Mike Skinner FAS Lane Ford 29.230s + 0.641s
30. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 29.273s + 0.684s
31. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 29.274s + 0.685s
32. JJ Yeley Whitney Chevrolet 29.316s + 0.727s
33. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 29.356s + 0.767s
34. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 29.506s + 0.917s
35. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 29.507s + 0.918s
36. Landon Cassill Germain Toyota 29.659s + 1.070s
37. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 29.674s + 1.085s
38. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 29.768s + 1.179s
39. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 29.790s + 1.201s
40. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 30.098s + 1.509s
41. Tony Raines Front Row Ford 30.457s + 1.868s
42. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford
43. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 29.708s + 1.119s
Did not qualify:
Brian Keselowski K-Automotive Dodge 30.050s + 1.461s