CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Matt Kenseth is hoping history repeats itself Sunday night at the Coca-Cola 600.
Kenseth won his second Sprint Cup pole of the season Thursday night for NASCAR’s longest race. He turned in a dominating lap of 194.252 mph at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the third round of NASCAR’s knockout qualifying format.
He also won the pole at Bristol in April and went on to win the Food City 500 and hopes to carry that mojo over to race day.
“It doesn’t really guarantee anything,” Kenseth said. “You can run over a rivet on the first lap and end up 43rd.”
Joey Logano will start alongside Kenseth on the front row. Carl Edwards was third, followed by Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin.
Defending champion Jimmie Johnson, a four-time winner of the Coca-Cola 600, failed to reach the final round of qualifying and will start 13th. In fact, all five of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers didn’t make it through the second qualifying session.
But Johnson is still considered one of the favorites to win.
He has won the Coca-Cola 600 four times, including last year when he captured the checkered flag from the pole.
Qualifying has never been Kenseth’s biggest strength.
He has 15 career poles, compared to 32 Sprint Cup wins since joining the circuit and earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2000.
“I think I’ve reached my quota for the year on poles,” Kenseth said, laughing.
CMS remains a special place for 43-year-old Kenseth.
He raced to his first career Cup victory in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600.
“The 600 is my favorite race on the circuit,” Kenseth said. “It is so challenging to run 600 miles and be decent at the beginning and strong at the end.”
Logano was strong Thursday night.
It was his best qualifying effort ever at Charlotte, although more than a second behind Kenseth at 192.836. He said he was thrilled with the lap he ran until he got a look at Kenseth’s time.
“That was an amazing lap there,” Logano said. “You hear second place and you’re like, ‘Ah, that’s great — cool.’ And then you hear how far you’re off his pace and it’s like, ‘Oh, not even close.’ So we have a little bit of work to do.”
Logano barely made it through the first round of qualifying, but his car got faster as qualifying went on.
“It was a good effort after where we ended up in practice,” Logano said. “It wasn’t very glamorous, that’s for sure.”
Four Toyotas will start in the top seven — Kenseth, Edwards, Denny Hamlin and David Ragan.
Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick will start eighth.
Jeff Gordon qualified 18th after a poor second-round effort.
“The car has speed in it,” Gordon said. “I have to be a little more aggressive with it.”
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