Almirola Leads Fusions In Kansas Qualifying
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It was cold Friday at Kansas Speedway, and strong winds whipping across the track added to the discomfort of drivers and crew members as they prepared cars for the late afternoon qualifying session to determine the starting grid for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.
The elements, though, paired with the new and fast racing surface to create one of the most remarkable time-trial sessions of the Sprint Cup season.
The track’s freshly repaved surface and the nearly ideal weather conditions produced an Oklahoma land rush on the speedway’s qualifying record of 180.856 miles per hour, set in 2005 by Ford driver Matt Kenseth.
The session produced such elevated speeds that every driver who attempted to qualify – 46 in total – ran faster than Kenseth’s record, and 15 drivers topped 190 miles per hour.
The fastest of the fast was Kasey Kahne, who scored his fourth pole of the year with a speed of 191.360, more than 15 miles per hour faster than AJ Allmendinger’s pole speed here in the spring, before the repaving.
Five Ford Racing drivers pushed their Fusions into the top 20. Aric Almirola was fifth, Greg Biffle 11th, Matt Kenseth 12th, Carl Edwards 17th and Marcos Ambrose 18th.
Biffle, hoping to make a big leap in the Chase standings Sunday, led practice earlier in the day but lost a shot at the pole because he was a “little wiggly” on his qualifying lap.
“I just missed it getting into three a little bit,” he said. “I was a little bit too high and didn’t get to the bottom like I wanted. I was a little wiggly down there in one and two, but I had been like that at practice.
“I really think I missed a lot of it in three and four. It feels good in race trim. We haven’t had it in race trim a lot, but we will see more about that tomorrow.”
Practice sessions are scheduled at 11 a.m. and 1:50 p.m. (ET) Saturday. Those runs – and Saturday afternoon’s Nationwide Series race – will add much more rubber to the new surface and should expand the racing groove for Sunday’s race.
Passing will be a chore as long as the surface is one groove wide.
“I am glad I am fifth so that I am starting on the inside because the second groove looks like it is just not working yet,” Almirola said. “Maybe the Nationwide and ARCA races (Friday night) will get that better. I am glad I am on the inside and fifth. I think the race will be about track position. It is good that we are starting up front, and that will be important all day.”