Greg Biffle claimed his third pole position of the season in qualifying for Saturday night's fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase round at Charlotte.
The Roush Fenway driver, who has had a lacklustre start to his title campaign, set a new track record at the mile-and-a-half speedway with a lap at an average speed of 193.708 mph. It marks the seventh time a new benchmark has been set at a venue in 2012.
Veteran Mark Martin got closest to Biffle's speed in his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and will start alongside him on the front row.
"It feels so good, we've been working so hard," said Biffle. "We've kind of been down in the dumps a little bit cause we haven't started out this Chase as strong as we've been all season."
Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman was third fastest and best among the Chevrolets. He also beat the previous track record, while Martin's team-mate Clint Bowyer was fourth ahead of fellow Chase contenders Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports), the third MWR Toyota of Martin Truex Jr and last week's Talladega winner Matt Kenseth (Roush Fenway).
Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, currently third in the play-off standings, had been fastest earlier in practice and qualified ninth behind his team-mate Kyle Busch.
Chase leader Brad Keselowski was 20th fastest, beating only one of the other title contenders - reigning champion Tony Stewart, who was 32nd.
"Qualifying just hasn't been our strong suit this year, I don't have an answer why," said Keselowski. "But in the race, the [cars] have been incredible. I'll take a good race car over a good qualifying car any day of the week and we've had that this year."
Kurt Busch was best among those running with a new team this weekend in 21st at the wheel of Furniture Row's #78 Chevrolet.
Regan Smith, whose seat has been taken by Busch from this weekend, could not match an impressive seventh in practice during his qualifying run and was only 26th in Dale Earnhardt Jr's regular Hendrick Chevrolet.
Meanwhile AJ Allmendinger was 38th on his Cup return, driving Phoenix Racing's #51 Chevrolet.
Wood Brothers' Trevor Bayne was fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 16th, while Cole Whitt, Scott Riggs, Josh Wise and Joe Nemechek failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 27.877s
2. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota 27.927s + 0.050s
3. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 27.943s + 0.066s
4. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 27.973s + 0.096s
5. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 27.980s + 0.103s
6. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 27.991s + 0.114s
7. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 27.996s + 0.119s
8. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 28.001s + 0.124s
9. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 28.008s + 0.131s
10. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 28.031s + 0.154s
11. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 28.032s + 0.155s
12. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 28.043s + 0.166s
13. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 28.094s + 0.217s
14. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge 28.174s + 0.297s
15. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 28.183s + 0.306s
16. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 28.229s + 0.352s
17. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 28.230s + 0.353s
18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 28.231s + 0.354s
19. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 28.236s + 0.359s
20. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 28.238s + 0.361s
21. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet 28.239s + 0.362s
22. Scott Speed Leavine Ford 28.318s + 0.441s
23. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.318s + 0.441s
24. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 28.329s + 0.452s
25. David Ragan Front Row Ford 28.364s + 0.487s
26. Regan Smith Hendrick Chevrolet 28.394s + 0.517s
27. Mike Bliss Humphrey Smith Toyota 28.417s + 0.540s
28. Casey Mears Germain Ford 28.417s + 0.540s
29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford 28.423s + 0.546s
30. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.441s + 0.564s
31. David Stremme Inception Toyota 28.468s + 0.591s
32. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 28.483s + 0.606s
33. Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 28.483s + 0.606s
34. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet 28.493s + 0.616s
35. JJ Yeley Max Q Ford 28.520s + 0.643s
36. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 28.533s + 0.656s
37. Landon Cassill BK Toyota 28.546s + 0.669s
38. AJ Allmendinger Phoenix Chevrolet 28.550s + 0.673s
39. Reed Sorenson Humphrey Smith Toyota 28.556s + 0.679s
40. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 28.652s + 0.775s
41. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford 28.689s + 0.812s
42. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 28.918s + 1.041s
43. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 28.982s + 1.105s
Did not qualify:
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 28.581s + 0.704s
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 28.858s + 0.981s
Scott Riggs R3 Chevrolet 29.191s + 1.314s
Cole Whitt Circle Sport Chevrolet 29.425s + 1.548s