KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kasey Kahne earned his fourth pole position of the 2012 season and the third of his career at Kansas Speedway during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet toured the newly repaved 1.5-mile racetrack in 28.22 seconds at roughly 191.360 mph.
Kahne is joined in the top 10 by teammate Jimmie Johnson, who will line up seventh. Jeff Gordon and Regan Smith will roll off the grid 19th and 39th, respectively.
Smith is filling in for Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is sidelined due to a concussion sustained during the Oct. 7 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
With four victories at Kansas, Hendrick Motorsports ranks first among teams all time at the 1.5-mile speedway. Johnson and Gordon each have two victories at Kansas to rank tied for first all-time with two other competitors. Gordon ranks first with eight top-five finishes, while Johnson ranks first with 10 top-10s and 503 laps led.
Among Chase drivers, Johnson ranks first with 18.9 percent laps led. His average finish of 5.6 ranks second, while Kahne’s average finish is 8.6 and Gordon’s average finish is 12th. During the first five races of the Chase, the Hendrick Motorsports trio has posted average running positions inside the top 10: Johnson (7.340), Kahne (8.16) and Gordon (9.780).
Sunday’s race will be broadcast on television (1 p.m. ET on ESPN) and radio (1 p.m. on MRN). Check local listings.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
At Kansas: In 10 starts at Kansas Speedway, Kahne has earned two pole positions, one top-five finish and four top-10s. Kahne has qualified in the top 10 in seven of his 10 races there. According to loop data statistics from the past nine races at Kansas, the driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet has made 670 green-flag passes, which ranks sixth-among active drivers. He ranks ninth for fastest laps run with 87 in that same timeframe. Kahne collected a runner-up finish at the 1.5-mile oval in this race last year.
Most recently: Kahne opened last weekend’s 334-lap event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway from the fifth position and climbed into the top three by Lap 74. Kahne worked with his team and crew chief Kenny Francis to make adjustments to the handling of the No. 5 Chevy throughout the 500-mile event. When the checkered flag waved, he took eighth and now ranks fifth in the championship standings.
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
At Kansas: Gordon has two wins at Kansas Speedway, including the inaugural race at the tri-oval track in September 2001. In 13 Cup starts at the 1.5-mile Kansas track, Gordon has posted eight top-five finishes and nine top-10s. According to loop data statistics from the past nine races at Kansas, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet is ranked third for the most laps run in the top 15 (2,105 laps) at the track. Gordon’s driver rating of 102.2 ranks him fifth among active drivers at Kansas Speedway
Most recently: Gordon started the Cup event at Charlotte last Saturday from 13th and immediately began dialing in the handling of his No. 24 Chevrolet with crew chief Alan Gustafson. Gordon ran as high as 11th and led two laps, but handling issues made it difficult for the driver to climb through the field. An unfortunate setback occurred during green-flag stops on Lap 219 when Gordon was clocked too fast on pit road. The pass-through penalty put Gordon one lap down. Gordon continued to fight as the race unfolded and finished 18th. He now ranks ninth in the championship standings.
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
At Kansas: Johnson returns to Kansas Speedway as the defending winner of the October 2011 Cup event there. In 12 Cup starts at the Kansas track, Johnson has two wins, five top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and three pole positions. According to loop data statistics from the past nine races at Kansas, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has the top driver rating (120.7) at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson is also the leader for number of fastest laps run at Kansas Speedway with 373 laps.
Most recently: Johnson began last weekend’s Cup event at Charlotte from fifth and jumped to first during the second caution period of the race. He entered pit road fourth during the Lap 36 caution and came out the race leader. As the race unfolded, crew chief Chad Knaus told the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet to save fuel. Johnson cut it close once when he ran out of fuel on pit road during a Lap 178 stop, but ultimately held on to cross the finish line third. He still ranks second in the championship standings.
Regan Smith, driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
At Kansas: In five Cup starts at Kansas, Smith has recorded a career-best 24th-place result three times. He has completed 99.3 percent of all the laps he’s attempted (1,331 laps of 1,340 total) at the 1.5-mile racetrack. In 77 Cup starts on intermediate (one- to two-mile) tracks, Smith has recorded one win, one top-five finish and three top-10s. He has a 22.5 average starting position and an average finishing position of 25th on these racetracks.
Most recently: Smith opened the 334-lap race at Charlotte from 26th and quickly began his ascent through the field, gaining five spots by staying out when an early caution flag waved on Lap 11. He reported a tight-handling condition for the No. 88 Chevrolet, and pitted during the next caution on Lap 27 for two tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Smith picked up six spots on pit road thanks to a quick stop by the No. 88 team and restarted ninth. He was able to maintain his position in the top 10 until misfortune struck on Lap 62 in the form of an engine issue. Crew chief Steve Letarte told the driver of the No. 88 Chevy to report to the garage, where it was decided Smith was finished for the night. He ultimately was scored 38th.