Brad Keselowski claimed a surprise first Sprint Cup series pole for Sunday's Chase opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Penske driver caused an upset in qualifying by beating the previous benchmark set by title contender Clint Bowyer, who looked set to start the championship battle from pole.
Despite the sun coming out when Keselowski was making his qualifying run, he was able to beat the Richard Childress Racing driver and set a new track record in the process with a laptime of 28.515 seconds, at an average speed of 133.572mph.
"I felt I got a shot at the pole before I qualified but you never really know," said Keselowski. "When I ran the lap I knew I gave up a little bit of time right in the middle of both corners but I had a plan going into it and stuck to it and it worked. I'm really proud of that lap."
Bowyer headed the group of Chase drivers from second, followed by Stewart Haas's Tony Stewart, who had been fastest earlier in practice and one of only four championship contenders among the top 10 in qualifying.
The Earnhardt Ganassi duo of Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya were fourth and fifth respectively, making it four Chevys among the top five, while AJ Allmendinger was best of the Fords in sixth, ahead of the fastest Toyota of David Reutimann.
"We've got a leg up on them for Friday," joked Bowyer. "After that, they'll run you down and it will be a race. The same old guys there always is. That's why they're in the Chase. But I tell you, it keeps getting closer and closer.
"I think the level of competition just keeps getting tighter and tighter with each and every race. I think that's why you're starting to see guys that don't normally sit on poles, sit on poles and everything else."
Chase leader Denny Hamlin was only 22nd fastest, while reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who won at the track back in June, will line up 25th on the grid on Sunday, his worst starting position for the first Chase race.
The points leader of the regular season, Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick was behind them in 27th, while the slowest of the Chase drivers was Matt Kenseth in 33rd, behind Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Red Bull's Reed Sorenson returned to the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota and spun while starting his qualifying effort, ending up 37th fastest. Germain Racing's Casey Mears, who drove for the team earlier this year, was fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 18th while Johnny Sauter and Jeff Green failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Car Speed Time Gap
1. Brad Keselowski Dodge 133.572 28.515s
2. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 133.464 28.538s + 0.023s
3. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 133.413 28.549s + 0.034s
4. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 133.389 28.554s + 0.039s
5. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 133.357 28.561s + 0.046s
6. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 133.273 28.579s + 0.064s
7. David Reutimann Toyota 133.249 28.584s + 0.069s
8. Paul Menard Ford 133.105 28.615s + 0.100s
9. Kyle Busch Toyota 133.096 28.617s + 0.102s
10. Carl Edwards Ford 133.040 28.629s + 0.114s
11. David Ragan Ford 132.970 28.644s + 0.129s
12. Kurt Busch Dodge 132.864 28.667s + 0.152s
13. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 132.711 28.700s + 0.185s
14. Greg Biffle Ford 132.637 28.716s + 0.201s
15. Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge 132.540 28.737s + 0.222s
16. Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 132.429 28.761s + 0.246s
17. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 132.310 28.787s + 0.272s
18. Casey Mears Toyota 132.199 28.811s + 0.296s
19. Elliott Sadler Ford 132.167 28.818s + 0.303s
20. Regan Smith Chevrolet 132.117 28.829s + 0.314s
21. Kasey Kahne Ford 132.099 28.833s + 0.318s
22. Denny Hamlin Toyota 132.094 28.834s + 0.319s
23. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 132.085 28.836s + 0.321s
24. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 132.057 28.842s + 0.327s
25. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 131.993 28.856s + 0.341s
26. Mark Martin Chevrolet 131.980 28.859s + 0.344s
27. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 131.884 28.880s + 0.365s
28. Scott Speed Toyota 131.719 28.916s + 0.401s
29. Robby Gordon Toyota 131.615 28.939s + 0.424s
30. Dave Blaney Chevrolet 131.533 28.957s + 0.442s
31. Joey Logano Toyota 131.193 29.032s + 0.517s
32. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 131.139 29.044s + 0.529s
33. Matt Kenseth Ford 131.022 29.070s + 0.555s
34. Landon Cassill Toyota 130.837 29.111s + 0.596s
35. Joe Nemechek Toyota 130.676 29.147s + 0.632s
36. Mike Bliss Toyota 129.998 29.299s + 0.784s
37. Reed Sorenson Toyota 129.825 29.338s + 0.823s
38. Michael McDowell Dodge 129.525 29.406s + 0.891s
39. David Gilliland Ford 129.481 29.416s + 0.901s
40. Travis Kvapil Ford 129.204 29.479s + 0.964s
41. Tony Raines Ford 128.754 29.582s + 1.067s
42. Andy Lally Chevrolet 128.680 29.599s + 1.084s
43. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet Champion's Provisional