HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) – A steady rain washed out all on-track activity at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, forcing NASCAR to use season points to determine the starting lineup for the Bass Pro Shops 500.

That put series leader Matt Kenseth on the pole for Sunday’s race, runner-up Kevin Harvick alongside and the other eight drivers in the Chase for the championship right behind them.

“I would rather have qualified,” said third place Jimmie Johnson, coming off a victory last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway that moved him back into contention for his first Cup title. “Maybe that would keep somebody from getting five points, and maybe that five points could make a difference in who wins the championship.”

Johnson was referring to the five-point bonus given a driver for leading at least one lap during a race.

Kenseth, who is generally not a strong qualifier and has only three career poles – the last one coming a year ago at Kansas – was very happy with the rainout, even though it doesn’t count as a pole victory.

“That means I start up front, and I probably wouldn’t have been starting up there without the rain,” he said, grinning. “Of course, everybody else (in the Chase) is up there, too. But this means we won’t have to work our way through the pack at the beginning and, maybe, we can get that five points right away.”

Rookie Denny Hamlin will start fourth, followed by Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, all bunched with 171 points of Kenseth. All of them are still mathematically alive for the championship and all but Busch are within reach of the lead on Sunday.

“We haven’t even been on the track yet and this rain could really help some people out,” Kenseth said. “But it’s going to be a good race and anything can still happen with four races left in the Chase. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and racing.

“It’s no fun just sitting around and talking about it.”

Qualifying for the Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday also was rained out. NASCAR rescheduled it for Saturday morning.


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