Kahne captures pole at Talladega
Kasey Kahne earned his first career Sprint Cup Series pole at Talladega
Kahne is sixth in the Chase standings, 32 points behind Brad Keselowski
TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- Kasey Kahne won his first career pole at Talladega Superspeedway, leading a strong group of championship contenders in Saturday's qualifying session.
Kahne's lap of 191.455 mph bettered Ryan Newman's 191.145, putting a pair of Chevrolets on the front row for Sunday's race.
Asked what it meant for Kahne's race, he didn't offer many details.
"It means I'm going to start first, that's it," Kahne said. "I'll try to lead that first lap. If we're up there, we'll try to stay up there."
But that's the big debate among drivers who aren't sure how to attack the fourth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Some may ride around in the back of the field waiting to make a late charge in an effort to avoid potential dicey situations, but some want to be aggressive and be out front as much as possible.
Kahne, who is sixth in the standings and trails leader Brad Keselowski by 32 points, wants to race.
"If we relax and wait in the back - we just really need to race and race hard," he said. "We're a long ways back right now, and if we can't make up points at a track like this, we probably aren't going to make them up."
Two-time defending race winner Clint Bowyer has had Talladega circled as the track that can most help his championship chances. He's fourth in the standings and has talked all week about gaining some big ground on Sunday.
Then he surprised himself with a third-place qualifying run that has him reconsidering his race strategy.
"I am blown away, shocked, that we were top three," Bowyer said. "I thought, definitely going into today, my whole plan for the weekend was we were going to qualify poorly and ride around in the back. Well, we're in the front, and I'm going to try to stay there."
Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart qualified fourth and was followed by Greg Biffle as Chase drivers took four of the top five starting sports.
Jeff Gordon was fourth, and was followed by Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne, Martin Truex Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr.
Michael Waltrip was 11th and followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., as two drivers who once dominated restrictor-plate races will start side-by-side on Sunday.
In all, Chase drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots. The other half of the Chase field is spread out all the way down to 23rd, which is where Denny Hamlin will go off on Sunday.
Matt Kenseth was 15th, Jimmie Johnson 17th, Kevin Harvick 21st and leader Keselowski 22nd.
Johnson, who has failed to finish the three previous plate races this season, said his strategy is simple.
"Don't crash," he said. "Whatever increases my chances of not crashing. There really isn't a rhyme or reason to that."
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