Kenseth stuns Edwards for NASCAR pole in Kansas

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Matt Kenseth pulled a rabbit out of his hat to score the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 at Kansas Speedway this weekend.

Kenseth, the last driver to qualify in the No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, set a new track record of 191.86 mph to bump former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards off pole.

Edwards, and Kenseth’s new teammate Kyle Busch, watched and stared in utter disbelief (right).

Kenseth’s not known as a qualifying ace – the pole is only his ninth in a Sprint Cup career dating back to 1998 – but the run was one of his most impressive thanks to a new strategy on the 1.5-mile oval.

“You know, I struggled through (Turns) 1 and 2 all day, and I tried something really different there in qualifying,” Kenseth told NASCAR.com. “I watched Ricky and a couple of other guys get through there, and I kind of changed my approach to the corner.

“I knew I got through there pretty good, but I didn’t know it was that good, but, man, I didn’t think I could do any better in 3 and 4. It felt pretty good.”

Edwards, reluctantly, tipped his cap.

“I didn’t think Matt would be a factor, but he pulled that out somehow,” he said.

Behind the bemused front row, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified third in another Roush Fenway Ford, ahead of Sam Hornish Jr. in a third Penske Racing Ford and Kyle Busch in the second of three JGR Toyotas.

Aric Almirola, Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10.

Penske’s pair of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano – reeling from penalties issued by NASCAR earlier this week – qualified 33rd and 22nd respectively.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.