RICHMOND, Va. — Matt Kenseth didn’t wait long to get his pole award back.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who was stripped of his pole award from last week at Kansas in a raft of penalties levied by NASCAR this week, set a track record with a lap at 130.334 mph Friday at Richmond International Raceway.
Kenseth edged JGR teammate Brian Vickers by 0.005 seconds to claim only the 10th top starting position of his career in 481 starts going into tonight’s Toyota Owners 400. Vickers, who held the previous qualifying record at 129.983, is filling in for injured JGR driver Denny Hamlin.
In what has been a hard week for the JGR stable because of the hammer-like quality of the penalties imposed by NASCAR, the results were welcome news. Kyle Busch, the third driver for the team, qualified eighth.
“When you only win nine poles in 14 years, you’re pretty darned fired up for all of them,” Kenseth said. “For sure, that was one of our goals for this weekend was to come here, sit on the pole and kind of quiet down at least part of the noise.”
The run again qualified Kenseth for next year’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race for pole winners only.
When he addressed the penalties on Thursday, Kenseth said he planned to talk, then put the matter behind him. As the Sprint Cup garage filled Friday, he said he heard from several people, but then went back to work and will let it play out.
“I think almost every person that I’ve talked to has been very supportive,” he said. “I just kind of left it behind me. I’m just going to let the appeals process work out and see what happens. Whatever it is it is. We’ll have to deal with the consequences then and move on. For now, it’s just business as usual. There’s absolutely nothing we can do about anything that happened last week at this point so you just put that out of your head. It’s only a distraction if you let it become one.”
Jeff Gordon, who qualified third, said it sounds like Kenseth is taking the right approach.
“I think that you go through the ups and downs of this sport if you’ve been in it long enough. Sometimes mistakes are going to be made, or things are going to happen,” the four-time series champion said. “I’ve been on both sides.”
Like Kenseth’s team, the penalties Gordon’s incurred were for a part supplied by the manufacturer.
“We had manifold issues here one time where it was made out of the wrong material, and it was a GM part that was sent to us,” he said. “It was a mistake, but ultimately the team takes that responsibility and pays the price. You feel for everybody on the team. You feel for others when that happens. But, it is just kind of the way it works.”
Kasey Kahne qualified fourth, followed by Clint Bowyer.