Kahne wins pole for Sunday’s NASCAR race

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kasey Kahne’s future has been settled. The present doesn’t look too bad for him, either.

After finally finding out where he’ll be driving next season, Kahne turned in an impressive performance for his current team Friday, with a lap of 187.183 mph to win the pole position for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Kahne isn’t sure whether facing an unsettled future affected his driving in recent weeks, but he does know it’s nice to know he’ll be driving for Red Bull Racing next season.

“I don’t know how much that’s been on my mind,” Kahne said. “It’s hard to say. I feel like I’m focused pretty good each week and really trying to do the right thing. It’s something I definitely think about a lot. So I think that can help me some.”

It is Kahne’s second pole of the season and the 18th of his career. Jimmie Johnson qualified second, followed by Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya.

It has been a big week for Kahne, who currently drives for Richard Petty Motorsports but has signed a contract with Hendrick Motorsports. Because Hendrick doesn’t have a seat open in 2011, it was announced this week that Kahne will spend next season with Red Bull.

Kahne said he is looking forward to the move.

“I want to win races and I want to run competitively and make the Chase — things that I think you can do there,” Kahne said. “Red Bull has shown that they can do (it) in the past. I feel like we’ll be able to do it next year.”

For now, Kahne is trying to finish the season strong for his current team.

“It’s nice to have that done with and to know for myself where I’m going, to know what I’m doing and focus on the end of the year,” Kahne said.

Bowyer’s run was a boost for a team that comes into Sunday’s race 13th in the points and is scrambling to become eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“It was a well-needed run,” Bowyer said. “Obviously these are important times for us, the situation we are in racing for this Chase spot. Starting up front at a big race track like this, to be in the clean air and having an opportunity to have a good pit stall goes a long ways toward a good run on Sunday. I’m very happy with the guys. Our cars are running well. We just keep having crazy things happen.”

Johnson has yet to win a pole this season.

“My future teammate had to come in and spoil our fun,” Johnson said.

It was a miserable day for two of Johnson’s current Hendrick teammates. Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 38th and Jeff Gordon was only two spots better.

There also was some shuffling at the back of the pack Friday, as driver Kevin Conway and his sponsor, ExtenZe, announced they were “suspending their program” with Front Row Motorsports. Tony Raines qualified the No. 34 car instead, coming in 39th.

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