Kasey Kahne claimed his second pole position of the season in qualifying for Sunday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta, the penultimate round ahead of the Chase.
The Red Bull Racing driver beat the previous benchmark of the session set by Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch at the wheel of his #4 Toyota with a lap of 29.775 seconds at an average speed of 186.196 mph.
Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer, who needs a strong result on Sunday in order to remain in the hunt for a Chase spot, got closest to Kahne's time, finishing less than half a tenth of a second adrift to lock out a front row spot.
Although Kahne is not completely out of the Chase picture, he currently looks unlikely to be among the title contenders this season. But his pole provides a much needed boost for his squad, which is still trying to secure funding for next year as Red Bull is set to pull the plug on its backing at the end of the season.
"I was surprised a couple of guys didn't beat me," said Kahne. "Clint came really close, but other than that nobody was really too close, I guess. Brian Vickers is fourth so we have a couple of cars in the top two rows for tomorrow night, so it's exciting, it's good.
"We definitely need to win... We need to still work on the car a little bit and throw something at it for tomorrow night, but I think we're close. Can we win? Anybody can in this deal these days... If we can win I think we still have a shot at the Chase."
Points leader Busch - who had a brush with the Turn 4 wall in practice earlier in the day - ended up third ahead of Kahne's team-mate Vickers, while Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five after holding on to provisional pole for a while. Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards were sixth and seventh, with Stewart Haas' Ryan Newman and Penske's Kurt Busch completing the top 10.
Brad Keselowski, who was fastest in the first practice on Friday, was 14th fastest in qualifying after avoiding an engine change following damage to the oil-pan on his car's engine during practice. He will start from the seventh row of the grid beside JGR's Denny Hamlin, the final man holding a provisional wildcard Chase spot.
Tony Stewart, who won the last Cup race held at Atlanta a year ago, showed great consistency during long runs in the final practice and will see the green flag wave from 20th on the grid. He is hoping for a solid result to remain among the top 10 in the points with the play-off looming.
Michael McDowell was the fastest of the non-guaranteed drivers in 28th, while Tony Raines, David Stremme, Geoffrey Bodine and TJ Bell failed to make the field.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 29.775s 2. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 29.819s + 0.044s 3. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 29.832s + 0.057s 4. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 29.843s + 0.068s 5. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 29.849s + 0.074s 6. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 29.853s + 0.078s 7. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 29.877s + 0.102s 8. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 29.880s + 0.105s 9. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 29.889s + 0.114s 10. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 29.915s + 0.140s 11. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 29.921s + 0.146s 12. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 29.939s + 0.164s 13. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 29.947s + 0.172s 14. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 29.949s + 0.174s 15. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 29.958s + 0.183s 16. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 30.000s + 0.225s 17. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 30.055s + 0.280s 18. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 30.086s + 0.311s 19. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 30.128s + 0.353s 20. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 30.147s + 0.372s 21. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 30.163s + 0.388s 22. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 30.183s + 0.408s 23. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 30.230s + 0.455s 24. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 30.232s + 0.457s 25. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 30.239s + 0.464s 26. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 30.270s + 0.495s 27. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 30.275s + 0.500s 28. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 30.291s + 0.516s 29. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 30.312s + 0.537s 30. Scott Speed Whitney Chevrolet 30.319s + 0.544s 31. JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 30.378s + 0.603s 32. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 30.388s + 0.613s 33. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 30.502s + 0.727s 34. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 30.513s + 0.738s 35. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 30.556s + 0.781s 36. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 30.673s + 0.898s 37. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 30.702s + 0.927s 38. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 30.757s + 0.982s 39. Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 30.798s + 1.023s 40. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 30.819s + 1.044s 41. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 30.822s + 1.047s 42. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet 31.060s + 1.285s 43. David Starr Leavine Ford 30.845s + 1.070s Did not qualify: Tony Raines Front Row Ford 30.870s + 1.095s David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 30.883s + 1.108s Geoffrey Bodine Baldwin Chevrolet 31.014s + 1.239s TJ Bell LTD Chevrolet 31.034s + 1.259s