Kurt Busch takes pole for Cup race in Kansas

June 4, 2011 - 2:27 PM
NASCAR Kansas Auto Racing

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch climbs out of his car after qualifying for the STP 400 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Kansas Speedway, Saturday, June 4, 2011, in Kansas City, Kan. Busch took the pole with and an average time of 30.901 and a speed of 174.752. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kurt Busch captured the pole for NASCAR's Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway, reversing a decade of bad qualifying luck at the 1.5-mile track.

Busch had never started higher than seventh in 10 career starts in Kansas, but topped the leaderboard at 174.752 mph in his No. 22 Dodge on Saturday. His first pole since Michigan last June and the 13th of his career came less than 24 hours and a few key tweaks after he spun out in a practice session Friday.

Juan Pablo Montoya will start second in Sunday's race, followed by Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers.

Joey Logano qualified fifth, giving Toyota three cars in the top five.

Jamie McMurray, who grew up in nearby Joplin, Mo., and visited the tornado-ravaged town Thursday, will start sixth.

Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards will start seventh — the highest of any of the Fords in the field.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s momentum after a gut-wrenching but promising second-place finish at Charlotte stalled with a qualifying run of 28th. Jimmie Johnson, who beat Edwards to win here in 2008, will start 31st — by far his worst position in Kansas.

Sunday's race will mark the midway point of the Sprint Cup's regular season, and three drivers hovering around the edges of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings are hoping to become the first three-time winner at Kansas.

Tony Stewart (13th), Greg Biffle (14th) and Jeff Gordon (22nd) all have a pair of wins here — but none of them will start in the top 10.

Gordon, who took Kansas's first two races in 2001-02, has seven top-five finishes at the track and four in a row.

Biffle took first in 2007, won again last fall in a Chase event and has the best driver rating of any driver at Kansas, ahead of Johnson. Stewart won Kansas in 2006 and 2009.

Of course, the way this season has gone almost anyone has a realistic shot at a win. Just five of the 12 winners in the Cup series so far this season have started from 20th or better.

This is the first summer Sprint Cup race on the schedule for Kansas, which added an event for 2011. Drivers expect the track to be hot and slick for Sunday's race, which will start at noon local time.

The track will host its traditional fall race on October 9.