Kenseth claims first pole in three years

Updated: August 26, 2005, 8:38 PM ET
Associated Press

Matt Kenseth
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon continued their frantic push to qualify for NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup, qualifying first and second Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Gordon was on the pole for just a few moments before Kenseth turned a lap of 127.300 mph in his Ford to snatch the top spot away. It's just the second career pole for Kenseth, who last started from the top spot three years ago in Dover, Del.

"It's been awhile," Kenseth said. "It was pretty fun to beat [Gordon] off the pole because he's always known for being so good here."

Gordon, a five-time Bristol winner, turned a lap at 127.199 mph in his Chevrolet to secure the second starting spot. He had started the past three years from the pole in the Sharpie 500.

"It was a great lap, I'm real happy with it. But I kind of felt like we left a little bit out there," Gordon said. "All it took was somebody like Matt Kenseth to put a good lap together."

Dave Blaney, who has a new crew chief this week, qualified third and was followed by Greg Biffle and Ricky Rudd.

Ryan Newman was sixth, followed by Ken Schrader, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne.

Kenseth and Gordon are among a handful of drivers trying hard to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race title hunt. There are just three events left to make it into the top 10 in the standings, and Gordon has pulled himself to 12th while Kenseth is 15th.

Gordon said he won't be foolish in his bid for a victory in Saturday night's event, but will instead try to run a clean, safe race that will help him in the standings.

"I really want to come out of here with a strong run and I sure would like that to be a win," he said. "But the focus is just getting the best finish that we possibly can."

Kenseth had the same idea. After scoring a pair of top-five finishes in the past three events, he's trying hard to make the 10 driver cutoff.

"Anything is possible," Kenseth said of his bid to get into the playoffs. "I still think it's kind of a stretch with all of those cars in between. We'll have to see. We just have to run as hard as we can every week and try to lead some laps and win some races.

"Maybe we'll get back in it and maybe we won't."

Series points leader Tony Stewart qualified 17th in his backup car after crashing his primary Chevrolet during a practice session. Jamie McMurray, clinging to the 10th and final spot for Chase qualification, was 18th but will have to drop to the back of the field because he changed the transmission in his Dodge before qualifying.

Rusty Wallace, who leads all active drivers with nine Bristol wins, qualified 20th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., another driver trying to make the Chase, qualified 41st.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press