Kenseth Wins Homestead Pole
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on November 15, 2013 | 7:22 P.M. EST
Kenseth talks to MRN's Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone prior to going out and winning his first pole at Homestead-Miami. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Putting his Phoenix woes behind, Matt Kenseth won the pole for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400, while points leader Jimmie Johnson will start seventh and Kevin Harvick, the only other driver with a chance for the title, will start sixth.
Kenseth earned his first pole at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a lap of 177.667 mph. Kurt Busch qualified second - the eighth time he’s started second this season. Joey Logano, who got engaged this week, will start third with reigning champion Brad Keselowski fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Hamlin finishes with the most poles this year with five. Kenseth gives Joe Gibbs Racing its 11th pole of the season - more than any other organization this season.
“I’m always surprised when we’re on the pole,’’ Kenseth said after his 11th career pole and third of the season.
Kenseth said Friday’s effort was good to help put last week’s disappointing run at Phoenix further behind.
“I think Phoenix takes a little bit of wind out of your sails,’’ he said. “The season has been so good, we led a lot of the Chase ... three weeks ago we’re leading the points and now you go into the last race with a very slim shot at it and you need a lot of help to make it happen, certainly that is going to take some wind out of your sails. Coming back down here and sitting on the pole is a great confidence booster.’’
Kenseth credited crew chief Jason Ratcliff for focusing on qualifying setups earlier in the day even though Kenseth wanted to spend time on race setups.
“Jason had a plan, and I didn’t like it,’’ Kenseth said. “He wanted to work on qualifying the whole time and I typically don’t like that. I think I had him frustrated by the end of practice. I think I missed every corner of every mock-up run that I made. He did a really spectacular job of helping me and pointing some things out and making adjustments to the car. He did a really good job, way better job than I did today.’’
Johnson, who leads Kenseth by 28 points and Harvick by 34 points, was pleased with his qualifying effort.
“Our goal each week is to qualify top 10 and poles are a big-time bonus,’’ he said. “It’s been a comfortable day. Everything has been pretty calm. The car has been comfortable and has speed in it.’’
Now the focus turns to Saturday’s practice.
Johnson said his focus is “just making sure I’ve got a good-driving racecar that can run on the top and bottom. Comfort is going to be key. Based on past years, if you maintain track position all day long, it’s great, but in ... the times I won a championship here there was some adversity that was thrown at me in points of the race. So (Saturday’s) goals is to, yes, have a fast car, but a car I’m comfortable with.’’
Harvick is confident for Sunday’s race.
“This has been a great race track for us,’’ he said. “I feel really good. We spent more time with our car in race trim today than we did in qualifying trim because that is what we have done all year and it’s worked for us. Really happy with our car in race trim and the qualifying stuff was okay and I just didn’t really know where to run in (Turns) 3 and 4 there because I wanted to run high, but nobody was making lap time up there. I had to abort at the last second and we ran low, and I think that was the right decision. Just a little too loose on both ends, but the car is running good.”
Busch is making his ninth front-row start this season, which includes a pole at Darlington. He’s also looking for his first win of the season.
“The car stuck really well and gave me the confidence to be aggressive with the throttle pedal,’’ he said.
Martin Truex Jr. will start eighth with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler completing the top 10. Jeff Gordon, who won this race a year ago, qualified 26th.