KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard swept the front row in qualifying for Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway, one of their last for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Kahne drove his Ford to a quick lap of 174.644 mph on Friday, earning his third pole of the season. Menard ran 174.469 mph on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Both are leaving RPM after the season.
“To me it shows that myself and Paul and our teams are still really interested in running strong and not backing down just because we have other things we’re going to do in the future,” Kahne said. “At the same time, it shows that RPM is giving us great race cars. We still have great packages. We just need to put it together.”
Kahne will drive next year for Red Bull Racing as he prepares to move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Menard will join Richard Childress Racing in 2011.
Jeff Gordon, who won the first two Cup races at Kansas Speedway in 2001 and 2002, qualified third at 174.430 in his Chevrolet. He was the highest qualifier among drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“Oh, man, I feel like I’m on the pole right now,” Gordon said after his first top-five effort since Pocono in August. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve qualified well. We’ve been trying really hard to qualify better, because I feel it’s been impacting our races.”
Points leader Denny Hamlin qualified 12th — but that was still nine spots better than four-time Cup winner Jimmie Johnson, who will start 21st. Johnson, whose win last week at Dover moved him up four spots to second in the Chase standings, trails Hamlin by 35 points going into Sunday’s race.
Carl Edwards, who will start 31st, was the lowest-qualifying Chase driver. Three of his Roush Fenway Racing teammates — Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan — all qualified in the top 10.
“I am frustrated because we were much faster than that in practice,” Edwards said. “We have to figure out what went wrong there. We will work on our race trim and see. The good thing is that you can pass here.”
Joey Logano was fourth, and followed by Biffle, Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Kenseth qualified eighth, Kurt Busch was the highest-qualifying Dodge at ninth and Ragan rounded out the top 10.
Non-Chase drivers took six of the top 10 spots, while defending race champion Tony Stewart qualified 14th.
“It feels like the track gave up a little grip,” Stewart said. “We missed backing up what we did in practice by a tenth, but I think there are a lot of guys right now who are happy they can maintain what they ran in practice.”