FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Although Matt Kenseth thinks track position is less important on Fontana's well-aged asphalt than on other NASCAR ovals, he is still excited to start up front Sunday.
Kenseth won the pole Friday, edging Brad Keselowski in another knockout qualifying session highlighted by now-familiar faces.
Kenseth won his first pole of the season, turning a lap in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 187.315 mph. He beat Keselowski's 187.105 to earn the 12th pole of his NASCAR career.
"This is probably one of the best tracks we go to as far as passing, with all the different lanes," Kenseth said. "Unless you get stuck on the top, there's a lot of options here. This place is really wide. It's very challenging as a driver, but very fun, as well, because you can look around and if your car is running a certain way, you can find a groove that will help your car and move around a lot."
Five-time Fontana champion Jimmie Johnson was third at 38.516, followed by fellow California native Kevin Harvick. Clint Bowyer came in fifth.
The drivers emerged from the fourth edition of NASCAR's new knockout qualifying format — and the first on a 2-mile oval — with more praise for the fan-friendly style. The 43-car field was trimmed to 24 for the 10-minute second round, followed by a five-minute final round for the top 12 cars.
Kenseth and his team weren't the swiftest to figure out the new qualifying format, but their speed overcame any problems. Kenseth finished second in the second round of qualifying before leading the final session.
Kenseth has won three times at Fontana, most recently in 2009, but had never won the pole in 21 previous races.
"We unloaded and had some really good speed," Kenseth said. "We worked on race trim a little bit. Wasn't driving quite like we hoped, but we did have some good speed, and that translated to qualifying trim."
Continue reading this story on the...