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Allmendinger to start on pole at Kansas

AJ Allmendinger rolled off the track and hopped out of his car, convinced that he’d put together a decent qualifying run but expecting to start somewhere in the top 15 on Sunday.

Turns out he’ll be starting up front.

Allmendinger captured his second career Sprint Cup pole Saturday, turning a lap of 175.993 mph in his Penske Racing Dodge to knock Kevin Harvick off the top spot. Joey Logano had the third fastest time but will start at the rear after changing engines during practice Friday.

It was the first pole for Allmendinger since 2010 at Phoenix. He nearly had the pole last month at Bristol but was edged out by Greg Biffle by a thousandth of a second.

“I didn’t think the lap was amazing. I thought it was OK,” said Allmendinger, who learned his lap time from crew chief Todd Gordon moments later and couldn’t help but smile.

“I was kind of shocked by it,” he said. “Everybody has been working hard. We’re getting closer – we’re not where we want to be at.”

Logano went off first in qualifying and posted a lap of 175.724 mph, then watched as car after car failed to touch his time. It wasn’t until Harvick turned a lap of 175.747 that Logano was finally bumped.

“We’ll shotgun the field,” Logano said. “It’s like the old short-track days. Didn’t they pay you more if you started at the back and you passed them all?

“I’ll have to talk to NASCAR about that.”

Denny Hamlin posted the fourth-fastest lap, followed by Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified seventh for Hendrick Motorsports, which is trying to an end a 13-race drought and reach milestone win No. 200. The team hasn’t reached Victory Lane since Jimmie Johnson’s win at Kansas last October, the longest winless stretch since the 2002 and ‘03 seasons.

Johnson qualified 15th after going sideways in Turns 1 and 2. He managed to recover down the back stretch and put together a solid second lap, but the bobble through the corner may have cost him a chance for his second consecutive top-10 qualifying run.

“An eventful 1 and 2,” said Johnson, a two-time winner at Kansas. “We know we got an awesome race car. I just hope we don’t hurt ourselves too bad here.”

Local favorite Clint Bowyer – who is from Emporia, Kan., and raced on the dirt track at nearby Lakeside Speedway – qualified eighth. Kasey Kahne was ninth and Sam Hornish Jr. was 10th.

Hornish was among 11 cars that had to make the field on time. The full-time Nationwide driver will be making his first Sprint Cup start since Pocono last June

“It’s been almost six months since I’ve been in one of these cars on an intermediate track,” Hornish said. “We wanted to get some seat time and shake the car down. I’m really happy with the car. We’re in the show and get to race on Sunday.”

STP 400 Lineup

Pos. No. Driver Car Speed
1. 22 A J Allmendinger Dodge 175.993
2. 29 Kevin Harvick Chevy 175.747
3. 20 Joey Logano Toyota 175.724
4. 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 175.667
5. 55 Mark Martin Toyota 175.484
6. 56 Martin Truex, Jr.. Toyota 175.444
7. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. Chevy 175.313
8. 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 175.302
9. 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy 175.092
10. 12 Sam Hornish, Jr.. Dodge 175.086
11. 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge 175.063
12. 31 Jeff Burton Chevy 174.927
13. 39 Ryan Newman Chevy 174.887
14. 51 Kurt Busch Chevy 174.876
15. 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 174.803
16. 10 David Reutimann Chevy 174.803
17. 16 Greg Biffle Ford 174.706
18. 17 Matt Kenseth Ford 174.486
19. 27 Paul Menard Chevy 174.323
20. 24 Jeff Gordon Chevy 174.261
21. 99 Carl Edwards Ford 174.244
22. 38 David Gilliland Ford 174.171
23. 14 Tony Stewart Chevy 174.143
24. 30 David Stremme Toyota 174.031
25. 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 174.020
26. 43 Aric Almirola Ford 174.003
27. 34 David Ragan Ford 173.947
28. 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 173.863
29. 78 Regan Smith Chevy 173.756
30. 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota 173.745
31. 49 J.J. Yeley Toyota 173.516
32. 83 Landon Cassill Toyota 173.388
33. 36 Dave Blaney Chevy 173.383
34. 23 Scott Riggs Chevy 173.249
35. 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota 173.221
36. 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy 173.182
37. 98 Michael McDowell Ford 173.155
38. 26 Josh Wise Ford 172.756
39. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Chevy 172.507
40. 13 Casey Mears Ford 171.985
41. 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota 171.625
42. 32 Reed Sorenson Ford OwnPts
43. 19 Mike Bliss Toyota 171.396