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Kenseth's week turns for the better with Richmond pole

6:37 PM, Apr 26, 2013   |    comments
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Richmond, VA (Sports Network) - Two days after NASCAR issued severe penalties to his team for an illegal engine used in last weekend's race at Kansas Speedway, Matt Kenseth won the pole for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Kenseth, who is in his first season as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, broke a nine-year track qualifying record at Richmond with a lap at 130.334 mph. The previous record at this 0.75-mile racetrack was 129.983 mph, which was set by Brian Vickers in May 2004. Vickers, who continues to substitute for the injured Denny Hamlin in JGR's No. 11 Toyota, qualified on the outside pole with lap at 130.303 mph. His lap time was only 0.005 seconds behind Kenseth.

Not known in the past as a great qualifier, Kenseth earned his 10th pole in his 481th Sprint Cup Series start. He also won the pole one week ago at Kansas, but his pole victory was stripped as part of NASCAR's penalties assessed to his team. Earlier this week, NASCAR discovered that one of the connecting rods in the engine used in Kenseth's Kansas race-winning car did not meet the minimum connecting rod weight.

Kenseth and car owner Joe Gibbs were both penalized with a loss of 50 points. His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, received a suspension of six points-paying races and the all-star event (non-points), a fine of $200,000 and probation for the remainder of the year. Kenseth said on Thursday the penalties were "grossly unfair."

Jeff Gordon qualified third for Saturday night's 400-lap race at Richmond, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, took the fourth spot. Clint Bowyer was fifth, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Logano.

Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin completed the top-10. Busch has won the last four spring events at Richmond.

The winners of the last three races -- Martinsville (Jimmie Johnson), Texas (Busch) and Kansas (Kenseth) -- have started on the pole, which is the first time that has happened since 1985. Kenseth has one Sprint Cup victory at Richmond, which came in September 2002.

The Sports Network

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