RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Joey Logano won the pole Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular-season finale Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.
Logano turned a lap a 126.470 mph to emerge from the final 12 drivers in the knockout qualifying format.
He edged Matt Kenseth, whose best lap came at 126.357 mph, to win his fifth pole of the season.
"It's nice to have a good starting spot here," Logano said. "Obviously, if you're up front you can take care of your tires a little better through the first part of the race. That should help us along with a good pit stall."
Logano, who is second to Kevin Harvick in the points race, has won two of the last four races, and is the only one to have cracked Victory Lane outside the Joe Gibbs Racing stable in the past eight events. Kyle Busch has won three times in that span, Kenseth has won twice and Carl Edwards won last weekend at Darlington.
Four drivers went into qualifying for the last race to make NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup needing to win the 26th race of the season to qualify for a spot in the playoffs, and all four made it into the final round.
David Ragan finished with the best spot of the four, starting fifth, while Tony Stewart will start 10th, Austin Dillon 11th, and Kyle Larson 12th bidding for one of four spots still up for grabs.
Ragan was surprised, and delighted.
"We showed up here with one goal in mind and that's to win the race and put ourselves in position," he said. "We weren't that great in qualifying trim so I didn't know what to expect, but obviously we have a good car."
Larson started with the fastest car in the first practice, but faded to 17th fastest in the final session.
"I'd have liked to have been a little better, but it's nice to make the final round," he said.
Kenseth was pleased to be among the fastest cars, but said he missed his line on his qualifying run and was disappointed to not get the pole. None of that will matter in the race under the lights, he added.
"Qualifying here is one thing and racing is totally different," he said. "Even through practice today, it's a hot, sunny day and assuming hopefully we race tomorrow night, then track conditions will be a lot different than they were today. I always feel like you never really know what you're going to have when you get in the race here. For me, it's always a surprise, Sometimes a good one and sometimes a bad one, but I never went to bed here on Friday night sure of what I had for Saturday really until you get racing. You never know what's going to happen here."
Local favorite Denny Hamlin, who grew up about 20 miles from RIR, said earlier in the day he didn't think a torn ACL in his right knee suffered Tuesday would affect him in qualifying, but he was just 25th in the first round.
Saturday night's race will be just the fifth time in 19 career races here that he starts outside the top 11.