Kasey Kahne claimed pole position for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, by setting a new track record at Darlington Raceway.
The Red Bull Racing driver bumped Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon from the top spot with a lap time of 27.131 seconds at an average speed of 181.254 mph. His benchmark stood unbeaten for the remainder of the session, with Stewart Haas' Ryan Newman getting the closest after running last in the qualifying order, finishing more than a tenth of a second adrift.
"I don't know if I could go a lot faster than that, but I just felt like maybe I missed getting back to the throttle that first lap in [Turn] 3 by a touch, maybe by a tenth or something. It was still an awesome lap," said Kahne, who was one of three drivers who participated in a Goodyear test last March, where the tyre manufacturer selected the softer specification being used for this weekend.
"The team gave me one of the best qualifying cars I've had in a long, long time," added Kahne. "It's a blast to drive a car that's so good around the track. To go fast at this track, to me it's a little extra than anywhere else because you're right by the wall and everything happens so fast. It's a pretty cool track. Pretty excited we got pole position for this one."
Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin, who won the event last year was third fastest ahead of Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards, while Gordon ended up fifth. Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger was seventh ahead of Kahne's team-mate Brian Vickers, while SHR's Tony Stewart and the Penske Dodge of Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10.
Practice was hampered earlier in the day first due to debris after Kurt Busch crashed his Penske Dodge after a tyre was cut, then due to rain interrupting the first two-hour session almost halfway through. The second session was cancelled altogether as rain intensified into the afternoon. This left teams with very restricted running ahead of the race, which will be run under the lights, whereas practice took place on Friday morning.
Some drivers focused mainly on race-trim and consequently failed to get a good starting spot for Saturday night's event at the egg-shaped 1.366-mile track.
"Well, it's kind of tough because of the rain," said Kahne. "We didn't get as much as we wanted and I didn't feel like we were good enough to win tomorrow night, so we're going to have to make a couple more adjustments and hope that it's the right direction and then work on it throughout the race. Try to keep that track position."
Front Row Motorsports' Travis Kvapil was best among those having to qualify on speed for the event. The engine on Scott Riggs' Whitney Motorsports Chevrolet failed during his qualifying run, meaning he was left out of the field. Andy Lally and Brian Keselowski also failed to qualify.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 27.131s 2. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 27.255s + 0.124s 3. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 27.300s + 0.169s 4. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 27.323s + 0.192s 5. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 27.346s + 0.215s 6. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 27.370s + 0.239s 7. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 27.404s + 0.273s 8. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 27.433s + 0.302s 9. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 27.456s + 0.325s 10. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 27.460s + 0.329s 11. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 27.461s + 0.330s 12. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 27.491s + 0.360s 13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 27.536s + 0.405s 14. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 27.558s + 0.427s 15. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 27.568s + 0.437s 16. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 27.586s + 0.455s 17. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 27.602s + 0.471s 18. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 27.611s + 0.480s 19. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 27.621s + 0.490s 20. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 27.628s + 0.497s 21. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 27.629s + 0.498s 22. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 27.634s + 0.503s 23. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 27.647s + 0.516s 24. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 27.654s + 0.523s 25. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 27.665s + 0.534s 26. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 27.670s + 0.539s 27. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 27.678s + 0.547s 28. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 27.687s + 0.556s 29. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 27.770s + 0.639s 30. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 27.827s + 0.696s 31. JJ Yeley Whitney Chevrolet 27.833s + 0.702s 32. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 27.879s + 0.748s 33. TJ Bell LTD Toyota 27.903s + 0.772s 34. Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 27.909s + 0.778s 35. Tony Raines Front Row Ford 27.911s + 0.780s 36. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 27.921s + 0.790s 37. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 28.025s + 0.894s 38. David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 28.035s + 0.904s 39. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 28.044s + 0.913s 40. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford 28.054s + 0.923s 41. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 28.165s + 1.034s 42. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 28.225s + 1.094s 43. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 28.235s + 1.104s Did not qualify: Scott Riggs Whitney Chevrolet 28.247s + 1.116s Andy Lally TRG Ford 28.613s + 1.482s Brian Keselowski K-Automotive Dodge 28.776s + 1.645s