Trailing by a sizeable margin, Matt Kenseth knows every point is invaluable as he attempts to catch championship leader Jimmie Johnson.
Kenseth began the process of closing the 28-point gap on Johnson when he took the pole position in qualifying Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. If Kenseth can lead a lap in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 he receives a bonus point and another bonus point if he can lead the most laps.
"The thing is Jimmie is so far ahead that even if he does have a problem we need to be in the front to be able to capitalize on that if he does have something go wrong," Kenseth said. "This is a good start to that and it will hopefully get us a bonus point right away. We have the best pit stall and that seems to be an advantage every week.
"We need to be up front and try to lead this thing as much as we can and be in that mix at the end."
Seeking his sixth series title, Johnson will start seventh, and said afterward he was happy with his lap. To win the championship all he has to do Sunday is place 23rd or better, regardless of where Kenseth finishes.
"It was a difficult set of circumstances qualifying at night when you practice during the day," Johnson said. "But I think we did a nice job adjusting the race car. We had a nice car in qualifying and a decent run. ... Everything has been good and smooth and hopefully it stays that way for us."
To win his third pole of the season and the 11th of his career, Kenseth clocked-in a speed of 177.667 mph around the 1.5-mile oval. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will share the front row with Kurt Busch. Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin round out the top five qualifiers.
The only other driver with a mathematical chance of winning the championship is Kevin Harvick, who qualified sixth and is 34 points behind Johnson.
"We can win this race," Harvick said. "... I feel really confident in the car and obviously there are going to be guys that have the cars, but I feel confident that we have a car fast enough to win this race."
Ford EcoBoost 400 starting lineup
|8)||Martin Truex Jr.||176.436|
|9)||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||176.436|
|21)||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||175.347|
|27)||Juan Pablo Montoya||174.537|