All three Sprint Cup championship contenders will start Sunday’s season-ending Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway toward the front. But one of them, Matt Kenseth, will have the best seat in the house after winning the pole for Sunday with a lap of 177.667 miles per hour around the high-banked 1.5-mile oval.
“It’s a great place to start and it’s always nice to get that first pit stall,” Kenseth said to ESPN. “Hopefully, we can get some bonus points early. All we can do is control the 20 car. My team did a wonderful job of that today.
“The car was better than I was all day, so I was glad I could get ’em a decent lap and some of the speed out of the car.”
Kenseth sits 28 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, who will start seventh as he aims to win his sixth Sprint Cup title. Just ahead of him on the grid will be Kevin Harvick (third in points, 34 behind Johnson), who qualified sixth this evening.
After a tough 23rd-place showing in Phoenix last weekend, Kenseth needs to go for maximum points to have any chance of reeling in Johnson, who must finish 23rd or better in order to clinch the title.
Having strong track position to start off with can only help Kenseth’s cause, as he’ll try to come from behind and earn his second Cup crown.
“Even though this is a really great track – it’s really wide with lots of grooves where you can pass – it’s hard to pass these days,” Kenseth said. “Track position’s really important, and the competition is at an all-time high. Qualifying’s important.
“You see when you get a good qualifying spot, if you don’t have any problems or make any mistakes and you can keep that track position, it just makes your day a little bit easier.”
As for Johnson, he felt that his car was a touch off-balance in qualifying but was still pleased with achieving a Top-10 start. However, he noted that this was just the first box to check off this weekend.
“[Having a 28-point lead] is nice, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” Johnson said. “I have to run 400 miles on Sunday, and that’s really the goal for this Lowe’s car.”
Kurt Busch picked up his ninth front-row start of 2013 ahead of his final race with Furniture Row Racing. Busch logged a lap at 177.445 mph in the No. 78 FRR Chevrolet.
Joey Logano (177.282 mph) and Brad Keselowski (177.061 mph) make up Row 2, while the third row will feature Denny Hamlin (176.846 mph) and Harvick (176.655 mph). Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Elliott Sadler filled in the rest of the Top 10 starting positions.