Two races remain in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase's Round of 12, and on Friday, the field was set for the first of those, which is Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway.
Matt Kenseth took the pole as he will lead a field that looks like this:
|Hollywood Casino 400 Qualifying Results|
|4||Martin Truex Jr.*||28.304|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||28.513|
|*Denotes Chase driver|
The win was Kenseth's 18th career pole in the Sprint Cup Series, via the NBC Sports telecast, as he sits second in the Chase standings. However he was just able to hold on to the top spot as he edged Kyle Busch by one one-thousandth of a second.
With the Chase field being cut from 12 to eight after the Alabama 500 from Talladega on on Oct. 23, only Jimmie Johnson is safe, as his win at Martinsville clinched his spot in the next round. So his 21st standing in qualifying isn't going to hurt his postseason chances in any way.
Entering the weekend, Denny Hamlin held the eighth and final spot of the Chase standings with 3,012 points, but he is 16 points behind seventh-place Martin Truex Jr., and his lead is not close to safe.
Both Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott are just three points behind Hamlin, while Joey Logano is six points back and Kevin Harvick is eight points adrift.
Elliott is the only one of those four drivers who will start outside of the top 12, as he was the final cut in the second round and will start in 13th.
Hamlin will start in seventh as he tries to keep the eighth spot, while Logano is in sixth, Harvick in 11th and Dillon in 12th.
Qualifying on Friday was expected to be a fast-and-furious affair as drivers were hitting speeds around 205 mph during an overcast practice session earlier that day. But the later it got in the day, the sun came out and the track heated up, thus slowing drivers down.
Instead of speeds over 200 mph, the fastest speed was set at 192 mph during qualifying.
A good qualifying round won't necessarily translate into success on race day, but it does take a little bit of pressure off the drivers near the cut line.
The better the starting position, the less of the field one would have to move up through while getting better positions on pit road. When it comes down to such fine margins come cut time, it can make a world of difference for drivers trying to keep their seasons alive.
Stats courtesy of NASCAR.com.