Richmond, VA (Sports Network) - Two days after NASCAR issued severe penalties
to his team for an illegal engine used in last weekend's race at Kansas
Speedway, Matt Kenseth won the pole for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond
Kenseth, who is in his first season as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe
Gibbs Racing, broke a nine-year track qualifying record at Richmond with a lap
at 130.334 mph. The previous record at this 0.75-mile racetrack was 129.983
mph, which was set by Brian Vickers in May 2004. Vickers, who continues to
substitute for the injured Denny Hamlin in JGR's No. 11 Toyota, qualified on
the outside pole with lap at 130.303 mph. His lap time was only 0.005 seconds
Not known in the past as a great qualifier, Kenseth earned his 10th pole in
his 481th Sprint Cup Series start. He also won the pole one week ago at
Kansas, but his pole victory was stripped as part of NASCAR's penalties
assessed to his team. Earlier this week, NASCAR discovered that one of the
connecting rods in the engine used in Kenseth's Kansas race-winning car did
not meet the minimum connecting rod weight.
Kenseth and car owner Joe Gibbs were both penalized with a loss of 50 points.
His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, received a suspension of six points-paying
races and the all-star event (non-points), a fine of $200,000 and probation
for the remainder of the year. Kenseth said on Thursday the penalties were
Jeff Gordon qualified third for Saturday night's 400-lap race at Richmond,
while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, took the fourth spot.
Clint Bowyer was fifth, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Logano.
Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin completed the top-10. Busch has
won the last four spring events at Richmond.
The winners of the last three races -- Martinsville (Jimmie Johnson), Texas
(Busch) and Kansas (Kenseth) -- have started on the pole, which is the first
time that has happened since 1985. Kenseth has one Sprint Cup victory at
Richmond, which came in September 2002.
The Sports Network