Tony Stewart claims first pole of his 2011 season at Charlotte

Tony Stewart claimed his first pole position of the season in qualifying for Saturday's Chase round at Charlotte

Tony Stewart claims first pole of his 2011 season at Charlotte

Rebounding from two weekends where he lost ground in the standings - after winning the first two races of the play-off - the two-time Cup champion beat the benchmark set by fellow title contender Matt Kenseth by 0.006 seconds in order to win his first pole position in more than a year.

"I thought we could pick up time [relative to practice] because we were watching lap times and guys weren't picking up as much [time] as we're used to seeing here at Charlotte," said Stewart. "I knew [Stewart Haas team-mate] Ryan [Newman] would put in a good lap.

"I rely on Ryan a lot when it comes to qualifying because he's the master at it for sure. So just took some of the information he gave us and went forward.

"It'd be nice to be the first guy to get to the start-finish line at the start of the race this week. This is a place where track position is really important so this is an awesome start for our team."

The Roush Fenway Fords of Kenseth and Chase leader Carl Edwards were two of a total four Fusions in the top five as Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger and Roush's Greg Biffle were fourth and fifth, ahead of Stewart's team-mate Newman.

Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard and Red Bull's Kasey Kahne had been fastest earlier in practice but could not improve significantly on their qualifying runs and ended up seventh and eighth, ahead of reigning champion Jimmie Johnson.

Most of the title contenders were spread through the field, Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick pipping Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt Jr for provisional pole after his run but ending up just inside the top 15 in the order.

Penske drivers Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski were among those not enjoying solid qualifying runs - ending up 20th and 26th respectively.

Trevor Bayne was the fastest of those having to make the race on speed, securing a top-10 starting spot on his series return after last racing a Cup car five weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway. Former Truck Series champion Geoffrey Bodine, Scott Speed and Josh Wise failed to make the field.

Teams will run two practice sessions on Friday focusing on race preparations ahead of Saturday night's event.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 28.131s 2. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 28.137s + 0.006s 3. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 28.144s + 0.013s 4. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford 28.159s + 0.028s 5. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 28.163s + 0.032s 6. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet 28.186s + 0.055s 7. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet 28.204s + 0.073s 8. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota 28.214s + 0.083s 9. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 28.222s + 0.091s 10. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 28.234s + 0.103s 11. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 28.272s + 0.141s 12. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 28.272s + 0.141s 13. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet 28.287s + 0.156s 14. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 28.288s + 0.157s 15. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 28.297s + 0.166s 16. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 28.299s + 0.168s 17. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota 28.302s + 0.171s 18. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 28.326s + 0.195s 19. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 28.330s + 0.199s 20. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge 28.336s + 0.205s 21. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet 28.357s + 0.226s 22. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 28.383s + 0.252s 23. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 28.420s + 0.289s 24. Casey Mears Germain Toyota 28.462s + 0.331s 25. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota 28.490s + 0.359s 26. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 28.493s + 0.362s 27. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.511s + 0.380s 28. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet 28.559s + 0.428s 29. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota 28.583s + 0.452s 30. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet 28.594s + 0.463s 31. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 28.606s + 0.475s 32. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 28.613s + 0.482s 33. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 28.632s + 0.501s 34. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 28.682s + 0.551s 35. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 28.687s + 0.556s 36. David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 28.736s + 0.605s 37. Michael McDowell HP Toyota 28.807s + 0.676s 38. JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 28.818s + 0.687s 39. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 28.829s + 0.698s 40. Andy Lally TRG Ford 28.930s + 0.799s 41. Hermie Sadler TRG Ford 29.083s + 0.952s 42. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford 29.120s + 0.989s 43. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 28.985s + 0.854s Did not qualify: Geoffrey Bodine Baldwin Chevrolet 28.994s + 0.863s Scott Speed Whitney Ford 29.000s + 0.869s Josh Wise Max Q Ford 29.129s + 0.998s 
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