Kahne wins NASCAR pole at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Kasey Kahne is the first two-time pole winner of the season in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series after he posted the fastest lap in qualifying Saturday at Martinsville Speedway.

He’ll start the race 27th in points, and hopes it’s the start of a turnaround in fortune.

“We have had great Friday and Saturdays and just haven’t put together a Sunday yet,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. “Hopefully tomorrow will be a nice start to a really good season.”

Kahne, who also started first at Las Vegas, toured the 0.526-mile oval at 97.126 mph, depriving Kevin Harvick of a sweep of weekend qualifying at the track. Harvick, who won the pole for Saturday’s truck series race earlier, had a run at 97.048.

The pole is the 24th of Kahne’s career, and first in 17 starts on the oldest, shortest track in the premier series. He said patience will be key at the start in Sunday’s 500-lap event.

“When you come to Martinsville, until about lap 250 you really don’t know what you have,” he said. “You can lead the race early, you can slide around and be slow early and after about lap 250, 300, that is when you finally realize how good your car is or how bad it is.”

That’s a lesson it took Harvick years to learn, and he won here a year ago.

“For many years I couldn’t finish in the top 10,” he said. “It has just taken a while to get to this point. All in all, we have had a good couple-year run. You never know when it will end, but all in all it has been pretty good for us lately.”

The top five also includes Denny Hamlin, who has four career victories on the tight, tricky layout, followed by Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman, followed by Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, a seven-time winner here, and Joey Logano.

Defending series champion Tony Stewart, who won here last fall, will start 15th, and points leader Greg Biffle will start 26th.

“It’s not where we wanted to be, but we’ve got 500 laps tomorrow to get there,” Biffle said.

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