RELATED: Complete race lineup CONCORD, N.C. -- For a driver who keeps insisting that qualifying isn’t his strong suit, Matt Kenseth continues to excel on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole days. Touring the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in a blistering 27.759 seconds (194.532 mph) on Thursday night, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota earned the top starting spot for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM), the first race in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Kenseth was .198 seconds quicker than JGR teammate Kyle Busch (193.154 mph), who put the No. 18 Toyota on the outside of the front row. Busch's car is sporting a pink paint scheme this weekend to bring attention to the work of his foundation in fighting breast cancer. The Coors Light Pole Award was Kenseth's fourth this year -- a personal best for a single season -- his second at Charlotte (and second consecutive) and the 17th of his career. Kenseth didn't have a perfect lap, but as he crossed the start/finish to complete the circuit, he knew he had a shot at the pole. "It was a heck of a lap," Kenseth said. "I knew I had a lot of speed. I kind of changed it up in (Turns) 1 and 2 a little bit, and I just got a little tight in the middle of (Turns) 3 and 4. I knew the car was fast. Our Dollar General Camry has been fast all day, and it was a lot of fun to drive." Kenseth gave the car and crew chief Jason Ratcliff's setup much of the credit for his pole-winning effort. "I knew it was going to be real fast," Kenseth said. "I didn't know we were going to sit on the pole by any means, but it had the feel and everything that I wanted. It's funny, this place, if you can get it to drive just like you want, you can really perform well here, but it's so hard to get that feel ... "But today he (Ratcliff) got it to drive that way. I was going to have to mess it up to not get it, as good as he had it there." Joey Logano (193.023 mph) qualified third, followed by Greg Biffle (192.947 mph) and Denny Hamlin (192.912 mph). With Carl Edwards claiming the eighth starting spot, JGR put all four of its drivers, all of whom are Chase contenders, in the top eight. All told, Chase drivers grabbed nine of the top 12 positions on the grid, with Biffle, Jimmie Johnson (seventh) and Aric Almirola (ninth) the only non-Chase drivers able to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying. Busch, who fought his way back into the Chase with a second-place finish last Sunday at Dover, was pleased with his effort in time trials. "I don't know -- Matt Kenseth , he was better than me, that's for sure," Busch said. "He got more out of it than me, but our pink M&M's Camry is awesome. We were able to post some good speed there. I'm real happy with it ... and I'm looking forward to the race on Saturday night." All 12 Chase contenders advanced through the first round, but Brad Keselowski (13th), Martin Truex Jr . (15th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd) weren't fast enough to make the final elimination session, which is restricted to the top 12. Keselowski ran an identical lap to 12th-place Carl Edwards but lost the final spot in the third round on an owner points tiebreaker. Josh Wise and Timmy Hill failed to make the 43-car field. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track on Friday for practice at 3:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN/Live Extra).
Relive the moment when Matt Kenseth runs down Brad Keselowski beside the haulers after an on track altercation in the 2014 Bank of America 500.
@nascarcasm imagines Kenseth's Facebook page after his Chase win RELATED: All content from @nascarcasm " Follow @nascarcasm
RELATED: Complete lineup for Sunday's race DOVER, Del. – A hard, steady rain at Dover International Speedway made Matt Kenseth 's life easier—and Kevin Harvick 's challenge even more difficult than it otherwise might have been. With a massive East Coast storm forcing cancellation of all of Friday’s track activity at the Monster Mile, including NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying, Kenseth will start on the pole for Sunday’s AAA 400 , the elimination race for the Challenger Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The series leader, Kenseth already has earned a spot in the Chase's Contender Round by virtue of last Sunday's victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . On the other hand, with the field ordered by owner points according to rainout rules, Harvick will start 15th in a race he almost certainly must win to keep his hopes of winning back-to-back series championships alive. After an early wreck and a 42nd-place finish in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway , Harvick ran out of fuel while leading with three laps left at New Hampshire and finished 21st, leaving him 23 points out of 12th place in the standings, the last transfer position for the next round. Even though the rain put him on the pole, Kenseth would have preferred to have practiced on Friday, especially in light of the suspension issues that relegated him to a 39th-place finish in the May 31 event at Dover. "I think we all would have liked to get on the track today and get some practice," Kenseth said on Friday at Dover. "I know there are some things we wanted to work on and try to improve from the spring for this race. "I think everybody wanted to get on the track. I think it's one of the advantages of leading the points – obviously, if it rains, you get a good starting spot and pit stall. Glad we're starting in the front, but still would have liked the track time." The qualifying cancellation means the 16 Chase drivers will start from the top 16 positions on the grid. Denny Hamlin , who punched his ticket to the Contender Round with a win at Chicagoland, will start on the front row beside his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. Carl Edwards , Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson are third through fifth on the grid, respectively, for Sunday’s race. "Bubble" drivers Jamie McMurray , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kyle Busch and Paul Menard , all of whom are within a two-point range in the standings, will start 11th through 14th, respectively. "We'll be ready; we'll be prepared and we won't start as far forward as we have here in years past," said Busch, who blew a right front tire at New Hampshire, crashed and finished 37th. "Typically we're a top-five qualifier. ... We'll make do." Busch feels his team's level of readiness coming to the track this season will stand him in good stead. "I think, for my guys, we've been really, really good this year of unloading and having some strong cars and some good speed right off the truck," Busch said. "I'd actually look forward to no practice time here. I think that would be really good for the 18 team."
NASCAR.com's Matt Strickert talks with the winner of the Sylvania 300, Matt Kenseth , following his fifth win of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
RELATED: Harvick confronts, shoves Johnson after race LOUDON, N.H. --- Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth shook off reporters' questions. Both Logano and Kenseth downplayed the post-race confrontation between Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick . The incident took place after last week's opener for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Chicagoland. "Didn't see it, don't know,'' Kenseth said, referring to a video clip that showed Harvick shoving Johnson in the garage. RELATED: Watch: Harvick shoves Johnson after the race Logano, who has previously had his own post-race confrontation with Harvick, was equally unwilling to offer an opinion. "I really don't have much of a reaction to be honest with you, I'm focused on my own thing,'' Logano said Friday morning before opening practice for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "It is what it is. That's what seems to happen in the Chase. Emotions seem to get fired up pretty quick and I don't really have a reaction. I'm not surprised. I'm not anything. It is what it is.'' Logano was actually in the catbird seat for the Johnson and Harvick on-track collision that precipitated the off-track situation. Johnson said his car was hit from behind by Logano on a re-start and that sent him down onto the track apron three-wide with Harvick. Johnson tried to get that bottom lane on-track back and that's when his and Harvick's Chevrolets touched just briefly, leaving Harvick with a smoking tire. A few laps later Harvick's car hit the wall, suffering significant damage and leaving him with a 42nd-place finish. Harvick took issue with what he thought was Johnson forcing his way back on track. Logano told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on pit road after the race that he did not touch Johnson and wasn't involved in any way. After the race, the six-time Cup champ Johnson, still dressed in his driver's suit, waited outside Harvick's motorcoach to speak with the reigning champ about the incident. A video replay shows Harvick push Johnson in the chest and then him being restrained as Johnson calmly walked away from the situation. Neither Logano nor Kenseth is willing to count Harvick out of the championship picture despite the fact his Chicagoland afternoon puts the champ on the outside looking in with two races left to determine the top 12 drivers who advance to the next Chase round (the Contender Round). Harvick is in 15th position in the standings -- 22 points behind Gordon in 12th place. He was ranked 16th until Clint Bowyer received a hefty 25-point penalty from NASCAR this week dropping him behind Harvick in points. RELATED: Bowyer drops to 16th in Chase standings after penalty The defending race winner Logano, meanwhile, is ranked sixth in the standings and was very confident in his Team Penske squad, keeping Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing team honest. Since Kyle Busch 's victory July 19 at the New Hampshire mile, every Cup race has been won by Gibbs' four-car Toyota organization or Penske's two-car Ford effort. But both Logano and Kenseth noted Harvick's speed at Chicago. "I wouldn't consider them out at this point by no means,'' Logano said of Harvick. "They're still a very strong team and they'll be up there racing hard and trying to get to the next round. "If you look at the big picture, obviously you want the fastest cars out because it gives you the best chance when you get to (the championship finale at) Homestead. But I'm not gonna change or do anything different out there. I've still got to get myself there. That's Priority 1, getting our team to Homestead.''
RELATED: Full results from New Hampshire " Updated standings MORE: See the new Chase Grid LOUDON, N.H. -- Kevin Harvick clarified his championship status on Sunday -- but not the way he had planned. After dominating the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for most of the afternoon, Harvick ran out of fuel while leading on Lap 298 of 300, handing the top spot and the victory to Matt Kenseth , who joined teammate Denny Hamlin as an automatic qualifier for the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Despite leading 216 laps on Sunday, Harvick, the defending series champion, heads to next Sunday's Chase race at Dover almost certainly needing a victory at a track where he has never won in order to escape the Challenger Round of the Chase and keep his title hopes alive. Kenseth , who came to pit road for fuel and tires on Lap 239, triumphed for the fifth time this season (tops in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series), for the second time at the Magic Mile and for the 36th time in his career. He finished 8.941 seconds ahead of Hamlin, who nursed his car to a runner-up finish despite a late-race issue with the right front wheel. "It feels great to win here -- a lot of great race fans here at New Hampshire," Kenseth said. "We had a great car today -- Kevin definitely had the field covered and ( Kenseth's crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) did a great job on pit strategy there, and those new tires paid off better than we thought to get up through the field. "And I was able to keep the pressure on enough and he came up a little short." The victory was the 13th of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing , which has won 10 of the last 13 Sprint Cup events. Joey Logano ran third, followed by Greg Biffle , Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr . The only non-Chase driver of that group, Biffle posted his third top-five result of the season. Dale Earnhardt Jr . had a consistent top-10 car all afternoon, until he, too, ran short of fuel with two laps left and finished 25th. Earnhardt goes to Dover with no margin for error. He’s 12th in the standings, the final position that will survive elimination next Sunday, and just one point ahead of both Kyle Busch and Paul Menard . Busch blew a right front tire on Sunday, pounded the Turn 3 wall on Lap 159 and was credited with a 37th-place finish. Harvick, who finished 21st and declined comment after the race, came to pit road for the last time on Lap 212 and couldn't squeeze the last 88 laps at the 1.058-mile track out of his fuel cell. Restarting third on Lap 243 after the ninth and final caution (for Justin Allgaier 's wreck in Turn 3), Harvick passed Biffle for the lead on Lap 252. Twenty laps later, Kenseth got past Hamlin for second and tried to pressure Harvick, who left Loudon in 15th place, 23 points behind Earnhardt in 12th. "Jason kept saying he (Harvick) was low on fuel, but you never know unless they really run out," Kenseth said. "I was trying to run hard, but I was trying to save a little bit. I got racing Denny pretty hard, and I wanted to save the tires a little bit, but I also know I needed to get by him to pressure the 4 (Harvick). "That was as hard as I could run. I was planning on running up there and trying to pass him. I just couldn't get there. Kind of resigned to finish second with about four or five (laps) to go there. I couldn't get much closer, and he ran out with a couple to go." Second to Kenseth in the standings, six points out of the Chase lead, Hamlin also acknowledged JGR's good fortune on Sunday. "Really, I don't feel like we were dominant today by any means," Hamlin said. "Yeah, our cars finished 1-2, but I'm not sure that we had 1-2 cars most of the day. "So I think we've been very fortunate with some strategies and things that we've played that's worked out in our favor. You've got to just keep working. That's the only way you can stay on top is to not rest."
In the final laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, race leader Kevin Harvick runs out of fuel, opening the door for Matt Kenseth to punch his ticket into the second round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Matt Kenseth celebrates in Victory Lane in Loudon and comments on the dominant run that JGR is currently experiencing.
Kyle Busch holds off a charging Matt Kenseth in the final laps of the Furious 7 300 to win at Chicagoland Speedway.