RICHMOND, Va. — Veteran Matt Kenseth’s season has started as quickly as he had hoped, but the veteran won the pole for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway.
Wheeling his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kenseth posted a lap of 121.076 miles per hour to win the first pole of the year and the 19th of his career.
“This year has not been a good year for us, obviously,” said Kenseth. “… Hopefully this week we can start up front and stay up front.”
Qualifying on the outside of Row 1 was second-year Wood Brothers Racing driver Ryan Blaney, who ran 120.854 mph.
“I thought it was a solid effort,” said Blaney.
Martin Truex Jr. qualified third in his Furniture Row Racing Toyota, ahead of the Fords of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Joey Logano.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., in his final spring race at Richmond, qualified 12th in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Among the drivers who came up short and didn’t make the cutoff to be one of the top 12 advancing to the third and final round were 2012 NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski (15th), seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson (17th), current Cup points leader Kyle Larson (18th) and Danica Patrick (21st).
“We just didn’t have it,” said Keselowski. “… The last few times we’ve come here we didn’t qualify well but we ran well.”
The biggest name who failed to make it out of the first round was Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. He’ll start 25th. “Disappointed that we failed to make the cut to get to the top 24,” said Almirola. “… We got our work cut out for us tomorrow to make sure our car rolls the middle (of the corner).”
Kyle Larson is the Cup points leader heading into the third and final race of the spring short-track season, followed by Chase Elliott (-27), Truex (-37), Joey Logano (-69) and Brad Keselowski (-83).
Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are the only drivers with two victories apiece this year, while Larson, Truex, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman have one each.
gallery: 19 tracks where Matt Kenseth has won NASCAR Cup Series races