Kenseth On Texas Busch Pole
March 29, 2001 | 11:00 P.M. EST
Or three fingers to be more specific.
Matt Kenseth won the pole for Saturday’s race by circling the 1.5-mile oval at an average speed of 189.880 mph, edging defending Busch Series champion Jeff Green for the top starting spot in the 43-car field.
Qualifying third through 10th were: Joe Nemechek, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Mike Skinner, Randy LaJoie, Kevin Harvick, David Green, Mark Green and Jay Sauter. There were 44 cars to qualify, with only one driver – Mike Harmon – not making the field.
The list of favorites is rather short heading into Saturday’s 300-miler, with Kenseth, Green and Harvick heading it up. Noticeably absent from the agenda is Mark Martin – winner of the past two Busch Series events at Texas – who retired from Busch Series competition at the end of last season.
Kenseth finished a close second to Martin last year at Texas and heads into this weekend’s race on a roll thanks to his victory last Saturday at Bristol.
“I really enjoy getting to run both races at Texas,” Kenseth said. “In the Busch car, we’ve run real well at the track. The past two times we were here we’ve been near the front. In 1999, we led most of the laps before having a problem. And last year, we finished second. Maybe everything will come together this time at Texas. After last week’s win, it would be nice to string a couple of them together. This race team is capable of doing that this week.
“Pit strategy can play a big factor, because there are usually long green-flag runs. If the team keeps getting me out of the pits quickly, like it did last week, we should be right up there at the end.”
Green might have a little something to say about Kenseth’s march to victory lane. In fact, the first Busch Series pole of Green’s career came at Texas in 1997.
“Elliott Sadler and I ran the exact same speed during qualifying, but I got awarded the pole because I was higher in points than he was,” Green said. “It was a pretty special day, not only because it was my first pole, but because Elliott was my teammate at Diamond Ridge Motorsports at the time, so it was a great day for both race teams.
“The Busch race at Texas will be a different beast this year. Texas is a fast, smooth track and in the past for the Busch races, it has been a one-groove track. We were able to hold the throttle wide-open because our motors didn’t run as fast. However, with the new motor program this year, everyone will have more horsepower and that will force us to let off the gas pedal.
“Hopefully, that will provide two or three grooves to race like Atlanta this year and it will be a more exciting race for the fans than in previous years.”
Green’s crew chief, Harold Holly, said his driver will definitely be one of the guys to beat Saturday.
"We took this car to the wind tunnel after Atlanta,” Holly said. “We learned how to make the car aerodynamically better, so I think we'll be really good for this race. We’ve had good cars every time we’ve competed there. We almost won the race in 1999, but we lost a gear and the transmission late in the race and last year, we finished fifth. I’m really excited because we are so much ahead of our program with the Ford than we were last year with the Monte Carlo, so I expect great things this weekend.”
Like he’s done on countless occasions this year in both the Busch and Winston Cup divisions, Harvick has proven he can never be counted out. Last year at Texas, Harvick led twice and had one of the cars to beat until he ran out of fuel and had to spend the rest of the race recovering to finish ninth.
“Texas is a fun track and it should be a little different with the new motor package this year,” Harvick said. “Handling will be important. You can have all the horsepower, but if your car won’t handle it’s going to be a long day.
“We had a good car there last year, and we had a shot at winning the race. But, we ran out of gas and finished ninth instead. We unloaded with a setup similar to what we had last year, and that gave us a good starting point.”
Saturday’s race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (ET).