Prodigious qualifier “Front Row Joe” Nemechek has an heir apparent.
Call him “Front Row Joey” – as in Logano.
The driver of the No, 22 Team Penske Ford won his fifth Coors Light Pole Award of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and his second straight at Richmond International Raceway, edging Matt Kenseth for the top starting spot in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
In the third and final round of Friday’s knockout time trials at the .75-mile short track, Logano covered the distance in 21.349 seconds (126.470 mph) to earn the 13th pole of his career and his 10th front-row starting spot in 26 races this season.
Kenseth, who led each of the first two sessions but fell just short in the money round, toured RIR in 21.368 seconds (126.357 mph), claiming his spot on the outside of the front row by a mere .001 seconds over Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski (126.351 mph).
Kyle Busch (125.950 mph) qualified fourth, followed by David Ragan (125.827 mph), the fastest of a gaggle of drivers who can earn a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup only by winning Saturday night’s final regular-season race.
“It’s nice to have a good starting spot here,” Logano said. “If you’re up front you can take care of your tires better through the first part of the race. That should help us, with the first pit stall, and we’ll go let it rip.”
Kenseth was disappointed at not being able to sweep all three rounds, a failing he attributed to missing his mark in Turns 1 and 2 on the decisive lap.
“I didn’t get 1 and 2 right,” Kenseth acknowledged. “I got a little too aggressive getting back to the gas, and that messed up my center and my exit, and I knew I left all the time there and we weren’t really set up to run a fast second lap.
“That was kind of it. I feel bad I kind of messed that up, but hopefully we’ll have a fast car (on Saturday) night, and we can keep it up front.”
Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson — all race winners this season — qualified sixth through ninth, respectively. Three other drivers who must win to make the Chase — Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon — will start 10th through 12th.
“Richmond’s been a difficult track for me in the past,” Larson said. “We’ve always just been kind of average here. But I feel like our car is way better than it has been in the past. We came here and tested a couple times this year, I think, for Goodyear tire tests, and the last one I thought we got a lot better — both myself and the cars.
“So I think we’ll be OK in the race. It’s just tough to get to that next step of leading laps and winning races.”