BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — The latest impressive showing for Joe Gibbs Racing came in qualifying at Michigan International Speedway.
Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Sprint Cup pole Friday, and his JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards finished second and third. The team nearly swept the top four spots, but Kyle Busch qualified sixth.
“We’ve been pretty fast with all the different aero packages, which is a great sign,” Kenseth said.
NASCAR announced after qualifying that the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be held under the original 2015 rules, meaning the track-specific packages at Kentucky, Darlington, Michigan and Indianapolis won’t be used. Lately, it doesn’t seem to matter what rules package is in place. The Gibbs drivers have been strong.
JGR won four consecutive races at one point — three by Busch and one by Kenseth. That streak ended last weekend at Watkins Glen.
Kenseth took the pole Friday with a lap of 197.488 mph in his No. 20 Toyota. It was the 16th career Sprint Cup pole for Kenseth and third in 2015. He’d never won the pole at MIS.
The last time one team swept the top three spots in qualifying was when Hendrick Motorsports pulled it off at this year’s Daytona 500. It’s the first time Joe Gibbs Racing has accomplished the feat.
“Obviously the JGR cars are really fast and the guys are doing a great job,” Busch said. “It could have been all top four. I just got too tight there and didn’t hit the lap perfect and we ended up sixth. We have a good car for Sunday.”
Busch is trying to stay in the top 30 in the standings so he can qualify for the Chase, and the other three Gibbs drivers are safely in. Hamlin nearly won his second pole of the year but was beaten by Kenseth.
“I wish I could say my role played a little bit more in this, but obviously, with all of our cars up there in the top five or top six, it’s pretty much a sign that our organization is turning some heads right now,” Hamlin said.
The track qualifying record was set last August by Jeff Gordon at 206.558 mph, but speeds have been lower in 2015. Kasey Kahne took the pole in June at MIS at 201.992 mph, and Kenseth was slower than that Friday.
“That’s a tough one to explain. We race so much and time goes by pretty quick,” Kenseth said. “I can’t remember exactly what the car felt like last time I was here.”