KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Carl Edwards doesn’t like sneaking up on people. He’d rather have a big lead and let everyone else try to track him down.
Maybe that’s why he was so giddy over his qualifying run Friday.
The Chase co-leader turned a lap of 174.571 mph, putting him on the front row with Roush Fenway teammate Greg Biffle for Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway. Biffle had the fast lap at 174.887, giving Edwards an ally up front with Chase contenders Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth making up Row 2.
“This is the best I’ve ever qualified here, so I’m not going to be frustrated about it,” Edwards said. “I’m proud of our qualifying effort and pretty excited to have an all-Ford front row. That’s pretty neat. There’s a lot of pride for that in our shop.”
Busch will roll off third after a lap of 174.447 mph, while Kenseth will start fourth.
The top nine drivers in the Chase are separated by just 19 points.
“I felt like the car had decent speed,” Busch said. “Starting up front is beneficial, getting a good pit selection is beneficial, so carry those things into Sunday. My next closest competitor for the Chase starts right in front of me, so other than that, we’re not worried who’s behind us.”
There’s a bunch of them back there.
Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are tied for third in the standings, though both will have ground to make up. Stewart, who won the first two Chase races, will roll off 23rd after struggling all day Friday; Busch will start 17th after his victory last week at Dover.
“The front end just wouldn’t settle like it needed to,” Kurt Busch said. “But tomorrow is a new day. We’ve got two more cracks at practice to try and dial the car in.”
Denny Hamlin will start seventh, Jeff Gordon qualified 10th, Ryan Newman will start 11th and Brad Keselowski 12th among Chase contenders. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 18th and Jimmie Johnson 19th.
“If it ain’t us winning,” Edwards said glibly, “hopefully it’s not another Chase guy.”
The native of Columbia, Mo., has fared well at Kansas Speedway, which he still considers his home track. Edwards has three top-5 finishes in nine starts on the 1 1/2-mile trioval.
He’s coming off a frustrating race at Dover in which a pit road speeding penalty cost him a chance at victory. After the race, Edwards brashly told his team over the radio, “We’re going to Kansas and we’re going to win, and let’s just go do it.”
“That’s still my plan,” he said. “I hope I can come through with that. I feel that we can do it and I really felt like we could do it at Dover. I was really amped up at the end of that race. We are running pretty well now. We’ll find out in race trim tomorrow how confident I am.”
He sounds plenty confident.
It helps having a two-time winner at Kansas starting right next to him.
Biffle, who won the 2007 and 2010 races, said he’ll do whatever he can to help his teammate in the Chase. Biffle said he’d even let Edwards lead a lap, though he acknowledged that the No. 99 car is strong enough that it will probably get to the front on its own.
“You know what? If you look back, we’ve been pretty dang strong on all the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks as an organization,” Biffle said. “Carl is going to have a fast car. I don’t think it will be an issue with him leading a lap.”