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California NASCAR: Kenseth beats Keselowski to Fontana pole

Matt Kenseth NASCAR Sprint Cup

Matt Kenseth captured his first pole of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup following a close-fought qualifying session at Fontana.

The Joe Gibbs racer, a three-time winner of the event, lapped the 2-mile oval in 38.438s (187.315 mph).

That was enough to deny points leader Brad Keselowski, a winner two weeks ago at Las Vegas, pole by just over four hundredths of a second.

The Penske driver nevertheless starts on the front row for the fourth consecutive event this season.

Friday pacesetter Jimmie Johnson, himself a five-time winner at Fontana, was third ahead of Stewart-Haas's Kevin Harvick, who had been provisionally fastest heading into the final two minutes.

Both Johnson and Harvick got within 0.1s of Kenseth's pole time.

Clint Bowyer claimed fifth ahead of Jeff Gordon and Las Vegas poleman Joey Logano, while Marcos Ambrose beat Carl Edwards - who triumphed in an incident-filled race last weekend at Bristol - to eighth.

Daytona winner Dale Earnhardt Jr failed to make it past the second phase of qualifying for the third consecutive event.

The Hendrick Motorsports man will start from 15th, directly behind Kenseth's stablemates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                 Time     Gap
 1.  Matt Kenseth        Joe Gibbs Toyota         38.438s
 2.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Ford              38.481s  +0.043s
 3.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet       38.516s  +0.078s
 4.  Kevin Harvick       Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   38.523s  +0.085s
 5.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota           38.614s  +0.176s
 6.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet       38.630s  +0.192s
 7.  Joey Logano         Penske Ford              38.653s  +0.215s
 8.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford               38.707s  +0.269s
 9.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford        38.735s  +0.297s
10.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   38.753s  +0.315s
11.  Kyle Larson         Ganassi Chevrolet        38.757s  +0.319s
12.  Martin Truex Jr     Furniture Row Chevrolet  38.767s  +0.329s
13.  Denny Hamlin        Joe Gibbs Toyota         38.851s  Q1
14.  Kyle Busch          Joe Gibbs Toyota         38.853s  Q1
15.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet       38.858s  Q1
16.  Ryan Newman         Childress Chevrolet      38.875s  Q1
17.  Kurt Busch          Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   38.884s  Q1
18.  AJ Allmendinger     JTG Daugherty Chevrolet  38.979s  Q1
19.  Brian Vickers       Waltrip Toyota           39.020s  Q1
20.  Austin Dillon       Childress Chevrolet      39.139s  Q1
21.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford               39.140s  Q1
22.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr  Roush Fenway Ford        39.160s  Q1
23.  Michael Annett      Baldwin Chevrolet        39.239s  Q1
24.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford        38.899s  Q1
25.  Jamie McMurray      Ganassi Chevrolet        39.019s  Q1
26.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet       39.062s  Q1
27.  Danica Patrick      Stewart-Haas Chevrolet   39.067s  Q1
28.  Justin Allgaier     HScott Chevrolet         39.134s  Q1
29.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford           39.147s  Q1
30.  Matt Crafton        Childress Chevrolet      39.207s  Q1
31.  Casey Mears         Germain Chevrolet        39.220s  Q1
32.  Parker Kligerman    Swan Toyota              39.362s  Q1
33.  David Reutimann     Front Row Ford           39.513s  Q1
34.  Cole Whitt          Swan Toyota              39.664s  Q1
35.  Travis Kvapil       Go FAS Ford              39.668s  Q1
36.  Reed Sorenson       Baldwin Chevrolet        39.699s  Q1
37.  Brian Scott         Childress Chevrolet      39.725s  Q1
38.  Josh Wise           Parsons Ford             39.766s  Q1
39.  Ryan Truex          BK Toyota                39.854s  Q1
40.  Alex Bowman         BK Toyota                39.863s  Q1
41.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford           39.937s  Q1
42.  Joe Nemechek        Waltrip Toyota           39.998s  Q1
43.  Landon Cassill      Hillman Chevrolet        -

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