RELATED: Full lineup HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin stole the thunder from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' four Championship Round drivers, winning the pole for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC). Outrunning Joey Logano and championship-eligible teammate Kyle Busch for the top starting spot, Hamlin toured the 1.5-mile speedway in 30.568 seconds (176.655 mph) in the third and final round of Friday's knockout time trials. Logano (176.263 mph) will start beside Hamlin in the season finale, followed by Busch, the highest qualifier among the drivers competing for the series title. Chasers Jeff Gordon (175.291 mph) and Martin Truex Jr . (174.498 mph) will start fifth and 11th, respectively, with defending champion Kevin Harvick taking the green from the 13th starting spot. Given the focus on the four contenders, Hamlin introduced himself as "Mr. Irrelevant" when he took the podium for the pole winner's press conference. But he did relish the prospect of winning what will be Jeff Gordon 's last race in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. "Sitting back here and watching Jeff talk and everything, it's like, man, you know, I thought about it before, but I didn't think about like how awesome it would be to win his final race," said Hamlin, who won his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Homestead and the 23rd of his career. "No disrespect to him, but, man, that would be awesome to win his final race. I hope he finishes third behind Kyle." Harvick posted the fastest lap of the day (177.848 mph) in the opening round, but his fortunes and those of Gordon moved in opposite directions for the remainder of the session. Without benefit of a mock qualifying run in opening practice, Gordon slipped outside the top 24 on his first qualifying attempt but recovered to advance to the second round with a 17th-place effort on his second run. Gordon was sixth fastest in the second round to advance to the final session. "That was disappointing, and I think that really affected me, that first run," Gordon said. "I just didn't push the car hard enough, didn't realize how much more grip was going to be out there compared to practice, and I just wasn't aggressive enough. The car was fine. The car was good. I just needed to go faster mainly through (Turns) 1 and 2. "I really did not think we could go faster than that. I didn't think the tires would have it in them. The fact that we were able to advance to the second round was huge. Kind of got me motivated and pumped up after that, and we made some adjustments, some big adjustments on the car, which we felt like we needed to do as you advance through the round and get the tires hot and air pressures start changing you know you've got to adjust the balance. "The team did an excellent, excellent job of that in those last couple laps. That last one could have been a tiny bit better, but knowing that we had one extra lap on the tires, I'm very, very proud and happy with that run." Harvick, on the other hand, failed to crack the top 12 in the second round by .002 seconds and will start deepest in the field of all the Chase drivers. "Yeah, round one was really good for us, and then we went to round two and just really, really tight in the next two runs that we made," Harvick said. "We just never really recovered from what we did in the first round to make it repeat. "All in all, I just think our balance was too tight. We'll work on the race car and go from there." Note: Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
Miss Coors Light , Amanda Mertz, catches up with Denny Hamlin after he won his third Coors Light Pole Award of the 2015, allowing him to lead the field to green in the season finale.
RELATED: Full race lineup Kyle Busch topped the leaderboard for Saturday's Coors Light Pole qualifying, earning his 47th series pole of his career and fourth of the season. Busch wheeled his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to a fast lap of 138.504 mph. Joining "Rowdy" on the front row for the DAV 200 Honoring America's Veterans (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra) will be the No. 33 of Austin Dillon after posting the second-fastest lap during the session (137.054 mph). Joe Gibbs Racing had two more of its drivers in the top five with Erik Jones (137.002 mph) and Daniel Suarez (136.137 mph) taking third and fifth, respectively. The No. 22 of Brad Keselowski will line up fourth after the Team Penske driver brought his Ford around the 1-mile track with a speed of 136.887 mph. Current points leader Chris Buescher placed seventh in his No. 60 Ford (135.895 mph).
MORE: See all 43 cars for Sunday's race " Complete lineup for Sunday FORT WORTH, Texas—As a driver who likely must win one of the next two races to keep his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title prospects alive, Brad Keselowski took a giant step in the right direction during Friday's knockout qualifying session at Texas Motor Speedway . The 2012 series champion covered the 1.5-mile distance at a speed of 196.929 mph in the money round to win the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC/Live Extra, PRN, SiriusXM), the second of three races in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski's first at Texas, his third of the season and the 11th of his career. It was also the third pole in the last four races for Team Penske . The driver of the No. 2 Ford posted the fastest time in each of the three knockout rounds. Kevin Harvick (195.993 mph) qualified second, followed by Kyle Busch (195.716 mph) and Joey Logano (195.419 mph), as Chase drivers claimed the top four spots on the grid. However, Keselowski and Logano, embroiled in catastrophe and controversy last week at Martinsville Speedway , are on decidedly different agendas from those of Busch and Harvick, who are tied for second and fourth, respectively, in the Chase standings. "This is a good start, but our ultimate goal is to be the fastest at the end of the race on Sunday," Keselowski said. "It's a good start, and it gets us up front with a great pit stall, and hopefully we can make the most of it. "I'm pumped about this race. Track position is important everywhere, and here isn't as much as maybe a few others, because the track wears out, and you see some comers and goers with the way the track wears out—but we will still take it." Keselowski and Penske teammate Logano are sixth and eighth, respectively, among the eight drivers still eligible for the championship. "I think, if you're not in the top five right now, you're in a must-win situation," Keselowski said. "Thankfully, we started out in the right situation with being fast. We feel like we’ll be really strong next week at Phoenix as well. "So all signs point to us having a very strong opportunity to win one of the next two." Non-chase drivers took the fifth and sixth starting spots, with Kyle Larson qualifying on the inside of the third row and Erik Jones , subbing for suspended Matt Kenseth , grabbing the sixth position on the grid. Kenseth must sit out the next two races for wrecking Logano last Sunday at Martinsville. "Sixth is a really good effort for us," Jones said. "We made the final round at Kansas as well (in relief of injured Kyle Busch in May), so it's cool to make the final round in both our starts. "We'll see where it goes from here. Obviously we've got a long ways to go yet for Sunday—500 miles. This definitely helps everybody's confidence a little bit for that." Kurt Busch , who also needs a win to stay in the Sprint Cup title hunt, will start seventh. Chase driver Carl Edwards qualified 13th, missing the cutoff for the final round by .004 seconds. Jeff Gordon , who secured a spot in the Nov. 22 Championship Round race at Homestead-Miami Speedway by winning at Martinsville, will start 18th. Martin Truex Jr . will take the green flag from the deepest position in the field among Chase drivers—23rd. Danica Patrick posted a season-best 11th-place qualifying effort.
RELATED: See the full lineup " Complete qualifying results AVONDALE, Ariz. – Jimmie Johnson played spoiler last Sunday at Texas, stealing a win from Brad Keselowski in the closing laps. On Friday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway – though "spoiler" is not a role he relishes – the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion was at it again, winning the pole for Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) with a track-record lap at 143.158 mph (25.147 seconds). Johnson, who was bounced from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the first Challenger Rounnd, edged Chase driver Kurt Busch (142.880 mph) for the top spot on the grid. The Coors Light Pole Award broke a 58-race drought for Johnson and his No. 48 Chevrolet team, who earned the most recent of his 34 career poles in May 2014 at Charlotte. The pole, his third at Phoenix, the last coming in November 2013 during his run for a sixth series title. Johnson has four victories at Phoenix, the most recent in 2009. "I don't think I want to play spoiler — I just want to go fast," Johnson said after his record run. "I just want to sit on the pole, win races, lead laps. I want to be the 48 that we know we're capable of. My motivation comes through that. "I want to be the race team that we are and the driver that I am. It's not because I want to be the spoiler, and I'm not in the Chase, so let me get in the way. It has nothing to do with that." For Busch, who for practical purposes must win on Sunday to advance to the Chase's Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the front-row starting spot is a welcome indicator of the speed in his car. "The way that this weekend is shaping up for us, it's a great start," Busch said. "We know we need to win. The car, the crew and everybody we are all clicking on eight cylinders. "We just didn't quite get the pole. Johnson put down an awesome lap, so congrats to him. We're outside pole, and we'll go from there." RELATED: Busch hopes to reserve SHR party of two in finale For Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski , who like Busch are dealing with must-win scenarios to advance in the Chase, Friday's time trials were a major disappointment. Neither driver qualified for the third and final round of knockout qualifying, with Logano earning the 14th starting spot and Keselowski the 18th. "We just missed it a little bit," Logano said after the second round. "I wish we were in the next round and going for a pole, but the fact of the matter is we're going to start 14th, and we're going to work on our car (during Saturday's practice) and get it ready to win a race on Sunday." Kevin Harvick , who has won the last four races at Phoenix, qualified eighth. Other Chase drivers will start as follows: Carl Edwards , fourth; Martin Truex Jr ., fifth; Kyle Busch , 10th; and Jeff Gordon , 12th. Gordon is the only one of the eight eligible drivers who has already clinched a spot in the Championship Round – thanks to his Nov. 1 victory at Martinsville. Just because of the qualifying effort, however, don't discount Harvick's chances for a fifth straight victory at the one-mile track. "We didn't qualify as well as we did last time, but the car was really good in race trim as we practiced today," Harvick said. "We just never really found anything that worked for us in qualifying trim." Notes: Dale Earnhardt Jr . qualified third ... In both the second and third rounds, seven drivers ran faster than the previous track qualifying record of 142.141 mph set by Joey Logano in November 2014.
Miss Coors Light , Amanda Mertz, chats with AAA Texas 500 Coors Light Pole Award winner, Brad Keselowski, about his No. 2 Ford, which was fastest in all three rounds of qualifying.
Miss Coors Light , Amanda Mertz, catches up with Jimmie Johnson after he captures his first pole of the 2015 season.
RELATED: Complete qualifying results KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Brad Keselowski 's pole-winning run on Friday at Kansas Speedway was an early Christmas present to second-place qualifier Carl Edwards . Keselowski saved his best lap for the third and final round of knockout qualifying at the 1.5-mile track, touring the distance in 27.621 seconds (195.503 mph) to edge Edwards (195.454 mph) for the top starting spot by .007 seconds. But in claiming his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Kansas and the 10th of his career, Keselowski didn't cash in on one of the primary perks that typically accrues to the pole winner. Because his No. 2 Team Penske Ford had accumulated four written warnings for minor infractions discovered during the at-track technical inspection process, Keselowski forfeits the traditional right of first pit selection, and the choice goes to Edwards for Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC), the fifth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "It's like getting a nice piece of cheesecake without the toppings," Keselowski said. "It's nice to be fast this week. We weren't anywhere near as fast as we wanted to be at Charlotte (last Sunday), which was frustrating. "And I'm not sure I could answer why we're faster this week, but sometimes that stuff just comes and goes, and you don't really understand why. But when you have speed, you've got to make the most of it." Getting the last pick of pit stalls won't help Keselowski's cause, but Edwards didn't seem to mind the unexpected bonus. "So we'll get that first pit stall (closest to the exit from pit road)," a delighted Edwards said after time trials. "That'll be huge. That's a gift -- and we'll take it." Both Keselowski and Edwards are among 12 Chase drivers vying for eight spots in the Eliminator 8 Round of NASCAR's 10-race playoff, with the cutoff looming Oct. 25 at Talladega Superspeedway . Only 14th-place qualifier Joey Logano , who with Dale Earnhardt Jr . (15th) was one of two Chase drivers who didn't make the top 12 on Friday, has already advanced to the Eliminator 8 Round, by virtue of last Sunday's victory at Charlotte. In addition to Keselowski, Edwards, Logano and Earnhardt, other Chase drivers will line up as follows: Kyle Busch , third; Kevin Harvick , fourth; Denny Hamlin , fifth; Jeff Gordon , sixth; Martin Truex Jr ., seventh; Kurt Busch , ninth; and Matt Kenseth , 10th. Ryan Blaney (eighth), running a limited schedule for Wood Brothers Racing , was the only non-Chase driver to crack the top 10. Blaney posted the fastest lap in the second round of qualifying at 195.164 mph. Harvick had difficulty getting up to speed during Friday's opening practice session, but the reigning series champion was relieved by his fourth-place qualifying effort. "That's a win for us," Harvick said. "We thought we were going to have to race our way from 25th, so to be fourth is a big improvement." Notes: Timmy Hill failed to make the 43-car field… Casey Mears ' No. 13 Chevrolet broke loose and slammed into the Turn 4 wall seven minutes into the first round of qualifying, forcing him to a backup car for Sunday's race.
RELATED: Complete Kansas lineup Matt Kenseth collected the Coors Light Pole Award in Saturday afternoon qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Kansas Speedway . Kenseth drove the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 to a pole-winning lap of 184.906 mph on the 1.5-mile track, notching his fifth pole of the season and 18th of his XFINITY Series career. He'll start first in Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the 30th of 33 races for the circuit this season. Series points leader Chris Buescher was second-fastest at 184.131 mph in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 60 Ford. Regan Smith was third-fastest in the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet, with Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch , the defending race winner, fourth-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Toyota. XFINITY Series title contender Ty Dillon completed the top five in the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet. Defending series champ Chase Elliott crashed during the final five-minute round of qualifying, making significant contact with the Turn 4 wall and sliding his JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet into the frontstretch grass. His team began to unload a backup car off the hauler, which will send him to the rear of the 40-car field for the mid-afternoon start. The wreck caused a stoppage at the 3:23 mark of the final stage of eliminations. At that point, the 11 other drivers still alive for qualifying had all completed an initial lap. Several of those remaining 11 made another qualifying pass but failed to improve their position. Buescher enters Saturday's 300-miler with an 18-point lead over Dillon, a 27-point edge over Elliott and a 45-point cushion over Smith. BJ McLeod brought qualifying to a temporary halt with nine minutes left in the first round, making a prolonged slide through Turns 3 and 4 in his No. 15 Chevy. McLeod drove through the grass just ahead of the pit entrance and did not advance past the opening 20-minute session.
Miss Coors Light , Amanda Mertz, catches up with Joey Logano at Martinsville Speedway after he wins his sixth Coors Light Pole Award of 2015.