Joe Gibbs Racing made another big statement in qualifying at Kansas Speedway on Friday.
The dominant Sprint Cup team this season, JGR swept the top three spots for the second race in the round of 12 of the Chase. Matt Kenseth will start on the pole after his lap of 192.089 mph, Kyle Busch will start alongside him and Carl Edwards will start right behind them in third.
Throw in Martin Truex Jr., whose Furniture Row team has an alliance with the Gibbs boys, and there will be quite a Toyota presence leading the field to the green flag Sunday.
“Our cars are pretty fast this weekend but anything could happen, as we saw last weekend,” said Kenseth, who won at Kansas the last time he sat on the pole in 2013. “We have to go 400 miles on Sunday. Hopefully we can stay up front and be in the mix.”
Most of the Chase contenders were in the mix in the final round of qualifying.
Joey Logano will try to win the Kansas race for the third straight time for the sixth spot, while Denny Hamlin gave JGR another strong qualifying effort with seventh. Brad Keselowski will start eighth, Kevin Harvick will start 11th and Austin Dillon will roll off in 12th.
“We have a decent starting spot. We’ll get a good stall from there,” Logano said. “Our team’s got confidence, for sure. We had a very fast car last weekend at Charlotte.”
The winner last week, Jimmie Johnson, struggled with a tight car in qualifying and will start 21st on Sunday. Chase Elliott will start 13th and Kurt Busch will start 15th as they try to take the pressure off the crapshoot known as Talladega by advancing in the Chase with a win.
“We just missed it a little bit,” Elliott said, “but the starting spot is the starting spot.”
EDWARDS RALLIES: Edwards had a lousy first attempt in the opening round of qualifying, and needed a last-ditch second effort to make it through. He posted the fourth-fastest lap with about 2 minutes left in the second round, then had a lap of 191.015 in the third round.
“I had to run an extra round because I screw up the first round,” Edwards said. “I really thought we were shot after that first one. I didn’t think we had a shot at a top five.”
PENALTIES ISSUED: Kyle Busch hardly seemed hurt by a penalty for swerving after last week’s race at Charlotte that forced him to sit the first 30 minutes of practice Friday. The swerving is a tactic teams have used to help make sure they pass laser inspections.
“You swerve, you’re sitting,” NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said.
WATCH THE WIND: Ricky Stenhouse and Clint Bowyer scraped the wall in almost the exact same spot in the first round of qualifying. Wind gusts down the backstretch created a tricky exit to Turn 4, and both drivers slapped the right rear into the outside wall. Neither had serious damage, and Stenhouse managed to get into the second round of qualifying. He’ll start 18th and Bowyer will start 31st.