CONCORD, N.C. (AP) – Kasey Kahne made the most of his late spot in the qualifying order Friday.

Nearly an hour after defending Busch Series champ Martin Truex Jr. sped to the top, Kahne drove his Dodge to a record lap of 186.735 mph to win the pole for the Carquest 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards went out after Kahne and pushed Truex to fourth, with Paul Menard rounding out the top five.

In all, 13 of the 50 drivers attempting to qualify beat the previous mark for the developmental series, set two years ago by Kevin Harvick at 184.445. Each of the other NASCAR divisions racing at the track over the past week set speed records, as well, thanks to grinding work done in all four turns to make the surface smoother.

“I turned into Turn 1 and got a little free in, but I was able to drive through it,” Kahne said. “Just wiggled up through both ends of the track, but it wasn’t too bad.”

Kahne is one of 17 Nextel Cup regulars in the field for Saturday’s Busch race, with another, Scott Riggs, failing to qualify.

Truex was the 16th driver out for qualifying, and his speed of 185.976 was good enough for first at the time. But as the sun began to set and track temperatures went down, Kahne felt confident about his chances.

“That’s what it’s all about on a day like this,” he said. “As soon as I heard what I drew, I was happy. I’ve gone first plenty of times, and it’s just not as good when it’s hot out. There’s not as much grip.”

Even with the faster track, several drivers had trouble, with three wrecks delaying the session. Denny Hamlin crashed on his second lap – his first was good enough for 11th – and because he also hit the wall earlier in practice, his Joe Gibbs Racing team didn’t have another one of his cars available.

He’ll borrow a backup from teammate Bobby Labonte and start at the rear of the field.

“I didn’t know my first lap was that good until after the crash,” Hamlin said. “I wish I had known sooner. We’re getting in a car now that I don’t know anything about. It’s not even my car, so who knows what we’ve got now.”

The troubles of his fellow competitors did little to slow down Kahne, who got his series-leading third pole of the season and the sixth of his career. He also started first at Richmond two weeks ago, then picked up his first career Cup victory the next night.

This time, Biffle nearly beat him, with a bobble in Turn 3 the difference.

“I went across 1 and 2 nearly wide open, and when I turned into Turn 3, I was going way too fast,” Biffle said. “I got sideways down there and I gave up a lot more than I missed him by.”



AP-ES-05-27-05 1949EDT


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