KANSAS CITY, Kan. — 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.”