Matt Kenseth will start on pole position for Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway. This weekend’s night race at Richmond is a crucial one for the championship, with this race being the final event before the playoffs begin in Chicagoland. This is a drivers’ last shot to make it into the top sixteen that will advance into the ten race shootout.
Kenseth is one of three drivers currently in a position to advance to the playoffs on points instead of with a race victory. However, a win would be a much more secure method of advancing; so he’ll be hoping to do just that tomorrow. He’s in the best position to do so too, after getting the pole tonight with a lap of 22.055 seconds (122.421mph) in his #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.
The pole is Kenseth’s second of the season, his first coming at Richmond the first time around back in April. He’ll be hoping to once again lead the most laps like he did back in the spring, but this time he’ll be wanting to end the race in victory lane.
A win and a championship playoff position would also do Kenseth a world of good as he looks at his options for next year having been dropped by Joe Gibbs Racing in favour of Erik Jones. Matt has had a marked improvement in form in the last few races, but his strong pace and decent finishes have yet to yield the vital race victory.
“We’ve been running pretty good the last few months. We haven’t been able to break through and get the win like we’d like to have. we got crashed out at Michigan, but other than that, we’ve been up there in the mix,” said Kenseth, post qualifying, “Things just haven’t fallen our way. We haven’t been able to quite get it to line up to get the victory yet but, certainly we’ve been running a lot better lately and hopefully, we can do all the right things here.”
Lining up alongside Kenseth on the front-row of the grid will be team-mate Denny Hamlin in the #11. Hamlin, a Virginia native and home-favourite at Richmond, will be hoping to make amends this weekend after his victory last weekend at Darlington was ruled encumbered after post-race technical inspection. Luckily for him, his previous win back at New Hampshire means he is not in danger of losing his playoff spot, but nevertheless, he’ll be wanting to win to make up for the penalty and to please his home fans.
Kurt Busch will line up third in the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion after a solid qualifying result. Kyle Larson will be alongside him on the second row in fourth; with Martin Truex Jr rounding out the top five in fifth place for Furniture Row Racing in the #78. All five cars were tightly bunched together on the time sheets, with first to fifth separated by just eight-hundredths of a second.
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will start sixth and seventh respectively, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr just behind for Roush Fenway Racing after a strong showing in the #17 Ford gave him an eighth place qualification.
Chase Elliott will start ninth, with the #24 Hendrick Motorsports driver hoping for a calm and clean race so that he can advance to the playoffs on points. Erik Jones, meanwhile, will be giving it his all in the #77 Furniture Row Racing Camry, as all his hopes are pinned on winning the race to advance to the playoffs. He will line up in tenth place and will be hoping that his run of good form in the last few races will continue so that he can challenge up front.
Jamie McMurray took the Chip Ganassi Racing #1 Chevrolet to eleventh place in qualifying, with Joey Logano being the last driver to make it to the top twelve shoot-out in the final round. Logano is another driver that’s in a must-win situation to keep his championship hopes alive. He is credited as the most recent race winner at Richmond after taking the chequered flag back in the Spring, but his race win lost its playoff eligibility after post-race inspection ruled his #22 Team Penske Ford to be violating the rear suspension rules. If he can win legitimately this time around, he’ll just manage to salvage a playoff spot at the last possible opportunity.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Richmond Night Race – Qualifying Top Twelve
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