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Notebook: Kenseth wins pole for MIS Pure Michigan 400

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Brooklyn, Mich. — It should have come as no surprise Matt Kenseth won the pole for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

After all, the Joe Gibbs Racing team has been strong, especially the past couple months — Kyle Busch has won four of the last seven races and Kenseth has won once.

"It was really good, obviously, so all of our JGR Camrys had some good speed since we got here," said Kenseth, who has two wins this season, eight top-five finishes and three poles. "Jason (crew chief Ratcliff) and that group deserve all the credit. They gave me a car that drove good and had a lot more speed in qualifying than it did in practice."

The speeds during qualifying Friday were down from June, mostly because of the new high-drag aero package NASCAR officials installed to try to improve racing. Kasey Kahne won the pole in June at 201.992.

Friday, Kenseth was among the 12 drivers to advance to Round No. 2 from the 44-car field. He took the two-mile superspeedway last in the final round, topping the field at 197.488 mph in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota. He was 10th fastest in the two-hour practice session (193.543).

Kenseth was followed by JGR teammates Denny Hamlin (196.990) and Carl Edwards (196.276).

Austin Dillon was fourth (195.918), followed by Tony Stewart (195.477).

"We want to start finishing races," Dillon said. "We've had speed during the race and we've had good qualifying speed, but now we've just got to go ahead and get these finishes that we need to be having."

Busch, who missed the first 11 races after being hurt in the Xfinity season opener, qualified sixth (195.450). He has won four of the last seven races and is 30th in points. He, however, would make the 16-driver Chase thanks to his victories.

There are four races before the Chase begins.

"Having Kyle back is a big advantage," Kenseth said. "I always feel like the better your teammates are, the better they run, the harder they work, the better it makes you. It lifts all of our performance and effort and all that stuff up, I feel like, so certainly a big boost to the organization when Kyle got back."

Pit stops

NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell said The Chase will be run with the new high-drag aero package rules package, which included a reduction of horsepower to 725 from approximately 850 and rear spoiler adjustment to 6 inches from 8. The rear spoiler is run at 9 inches at MIS this weekend, as it was in the Brickyard 400 last month.

... Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski qualified 14th, failing to make the 12-car final round.

"It was a pretty smooth lap," said Keselowski, who is in The Chase. "I was running wide-open and there isn't a lot you can say about that. We were just holding it open and there isn't a lot of driver involved in that."

... Erik Jones, a 19-year-old graduate of Swartz Creek High, made his MIS debut in the Camping World Truck series.

Jones, third in the points race, was third-fastest in Practice No. 1 (184.082 mph) and 13th in the final practice (184.308).

Qualifying is today, followed by the Careers for Veterans 200.