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.