Kasey Kahne has won the pole for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 that will take place on Sunday after knocking out four-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson from the top spot. Kahne turned a lap of 93.893 on Friday at Infineon Raceway in the same car he drove to a win in last year’s race on the road course.
Johnson, who is driving a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified second with a lap of 93.809. However, he has not had success on a road course and will be looking for his first victory.
“It’s a great car,” he said. “It’s the same car we ran here last year, minus the engine. We’ve got a new Ford engine that runs really well. I’m looking forward to seeing how it runs throughout the race. Tomorrow [practice] is huge as far as getting the balance right and getting it to turn and hit the corners the way we want to.
Kahne is in good position to get the win for a second year in a row on the 11-turn 1.99 mile road course. However, his options for 2011 have been a big topic of discussion. Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said he has a lot more options than he expected when he signed the Richard Petty Motorsports driver in April. One rumor that has circulated was that Kahne would drive the 09 car for James Finch and Phoenix Racing but Hendrick discounted the rumor.
Other speculated possibilities include Stewart-Haas Racing and Red Bull Racing. There are a few important key factors that will play into Hendrick’s decision, but he did say that Kahne would be in a Chevrolet and Red Bull fields Toyotas.
“The biggest problem with us, with me and the whole situation is I want to make the right decision for him and our company,” Hendrick said. “I’m not really procrastinating as much as I’m trying to let everything unfold.”
But for now, Kahne will focus on 2010 and more importantly Sunday’s race. The top qualifiers for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 include some of NASCAR’s top drivers so Kahne will need a good race to get the win. Kurt Busch finished third in qualifying and Sprint Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick qualified fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon.