By Jenna Fryer LAS VEGAS, AP
Kasey Kahne won the pole at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading a parade of Dodges as Chargers took five of the top seven spots in qualifying on Friday.
Kahne posted a lap of 184.856 mph (297.48 kph) around the revamped track, enough to nudge David Stremme off the pole for Sunday’s UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400. Stremme ran a lap at 184.193 mph (296.42 kph). Elliott Sadler, Kahne’s teammate at Evernham Motorsports, qualified third with a lap at 183.874 mph (295.9 kph).
“Definitely in qualifying today Dodge was the car to beat,” Kahne said. “There’s a lot of them up there. Evernham Motorsports figured it out early in the year how to make the Charger work last year and we had some poles and ran up front, so I think all the Dodge teams will be tough to beat.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, Stremme’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, was fourth at 183.187 mph (294.8 kph). Montoya is coming off his win in the second-tier Busch Series last weekend in Mexico City.
Jeff Burton was the best non-Dodge driver, qualifying fifth in a Chevrolet. Scott Riggs, the third Evernham driver, qualified sixth, while Reed Sorenson, the third Ganassi driver, was seventh.
It was a wild day of qualifying at Las Vegas, which underwent controversial track changes during the offseason. The surface was repaved, the banking was increased from 12 degrees to 20, and pit road was moved.
All the changes made speeds very fast during the January test, which led NASCAR to mandate a smaller fuel cell for this race. Goodyear also brought a harder tire compound that had many drivers grumbling, including two-time champion Tony Stewart, who called it “definitely the worst Goodyear tire I think I have ever been on.”
It all added up to a bumpy qualifying session that saw Bobby Labonte, David Gilliland and Ken Schrader wreck. Michael Waltrip spun and Paul Menard took a wild ride through the grass, but somehow saved his car from hitting anything.
Labonte and Gilliland were both locked into the field, and Menard made Sunday’s race on speed.
Schrader and Waltrip weren’t so fortunate, and both failed to make the race. It’s the second straight race Waltrip has failed to qualify for, and it ended a streak of 111 consecutive starts for Schrader.
Also failing to make the race was Team Red Bull, which didn’t get A.J. Allmendinger or Brian Vickers into the 43-car field. Allmendinger seemed to be in until Kenny Wallace, the last car to attempt to qualify, bumped him.
David Reutimann, the rookie driver for Michael Waltrip Racing, failed to qualify and Jeremy Mayfield missed the cut in what’s been a disastrous start to the season. A two-time Chase qualifier, Mayfield has failed to make all three races this season.
No one is sure what to expect in Sunday’s race.
“I think pit road is going to be tricky for all of us,” Sadler said. “But the surface has been fine. You can run up high and on the bottom. I think you guys are going to see some good two-wide racing.”