The most surprising aspect of Kasey Kahne's pole-winning run on Friday at Michigan International Speedway wasn't that Kahne was the fastest qualifier.
More surprising -- almost shocking -- was the realization Kahne hadn't won a pole in NASCAR's top series for nearly three years.
Kahne's Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at MIS (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) was the 27th of his career, tying him with Terry Labonte for 25th on the all-time list. But it ended a 93-race drought dating to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway in October 2012.
Once a prolific pole winner, Kahne said the competition for the top starting spot has intensified exponentially in the last few years.
"I think the competition is much closer," Kahne told the NASCAR Wire Service. "I think the drivers, the teams are better than what they used to be. A lot of times a tenth separates 15 cars. I don't remember it being quite like that when I first came into the sport, when poles seemed to be easier to win at that time."
Kahne also believes finding the optimum comfort of the car is a big factor in being able to achieve maximum speed.
"I just think it is maybe a little bit of a feel in the car," he said. "There are times when I'm not finding that feel that I need to find. It shows with (Martin) Truex, for example -- what he did last year and what he is doing this year. They just found some things that made him more comfortable in the car, and he's flying.
"He's doing an awesome job -- that whole team is. But they didn't have that last year. It was something they found together and worked hard to find this year.
Different things fit different people at different times. We're working hard to get to that point. We want to race those guys each week, and we want to battle to lead laps and try to win races."