KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Every championship contender knew that starting position would be paramount at repaved Kansas Speedway, where getting to the front after the green flag drops could present a problem.
Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer will have the luxury of starting there.
Kahne earned the pole for Sunday's race by shattering the track record with a lap of 191.360 mph, and Bowyer qualified behind Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Mark Martin in third Friday.
"That was a fast lap," Bowyer said, basically summing up the lap turned by everyone. "It's unreal how much that gets your attention."
Kahne is fifth in points with five races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, while Bowyer is fourth after his win last week at Charlotte. Both of them are chasing leader Brad Keselowski, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.
"It's hammer-down, man," said Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kan. "Looking forward to practice tomorrow. I think we've done a good job so far. Still got a long ways to go."
Not as far to go as Keselowski.
He'll be one of the drivers trying to meander their way through the field over the repaved surface after qualifying 25th. The only Chase driver to qualify worse was three-time champion Tony Stewart, will start 33rd for Sunday's race.
"We just have more work than we wanted," Keselowski said. "Track position is important. If you don't qualify well, you just have to make sure that your car is fast in race trim, and that's what we'll try to do tomorrow."
All 43 cars in the field broke the previous track record 180.856 mph set by Matt Kenseth in 2005, though that came as no surprise. Drivers were turning laps in excess of 190 during practice, and cars were approaching 205 mph before letting up entering the corners.
Speeds not seen over the track since IndyCars were running on it.
"All the drivers are high-fiving each other because we came back here alive," joked Kyle Busch, who qualified fourth. "The minimum speed through the corner is amazing."
Johnson, who will start seventh, said he was "as brave as I could be."
"You're just driving your guys out and doing everything you can all the way around," he said. "You know it's fast. You just don't know if it's fast enough."
Kansas Speedway underwent a massive renovation over the summer that replaced the old, worn-out surface with new pavement while creating variable banking in the corners. It was a necessary step after massive chunks of asphalt chipped off the track during the April race weekend.