RELATED: Lineup for AAA Texas 500 " Edwards set up for strong finish
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Carl Edwards blistered Turns 3 and 4 at the end of a hair-raising qualifying lap that was fast enough to win the pole for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 40th of 43 drivers to make a qualifying attempt in Friday's time trials at the 1.5-mile track, Edwards covered the distance in 27.535 seconds (196.114 mph) to edge fellow Ford driver Brad Keselowski (196.100 mph) for the top starting spot in the eighth Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race by .002 seconds.
Jimmie Johnson (195.943 mph) qualified third, three positions ahead of Matt Kenseth (195.518 mph), who is tied with Johnson for the top spot in the series standings with three Chase races left. Third-place Jeff Gordon, who trails the leaders by 27 points, earned the eighth starting spot, one position behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Paul Menard (195.837 mph) qualified fourth, .008 seconds faster than fifth-place starter Kyle Busch (195.780 mph), who is fifth in the Chase standings, 36 points behind Kenseth and Johnson.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Edwards' first at Texas, his second of the season and the 13th of his career. Edwards is a three-time winner at TMS, tops in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
"The late draw saved us there," said Edwards, whose No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford slipped off Turn 2 on the money lap. "That wiggle ? the car got loose off of (Turn) 2, and I definitely saw our pole hopes fade right there. I did not think it was going to happen.
"But then it went through (Turns) 3 and 4 really, really well. I don't know that anybody could have gone through there much better. That car was very fast through there. And the engine ran so well? Overall, I believe the car is a lot better than that lap even."
Johnson's hopes for a pole ended with a light brush with the wall off Turn 4, as all three of the top qualifiers navigated the track on the knife edge of near disaster.
"I hate to admit it, but at one point, I think I had my eyes shut, because I knew there was going to be contact -- I just didn't know how much," Johnson said. "I just grazed the wall and scratched the sticker on the bumper cover and the taillight on the back of the car.
"Watching Brad's lap, he was in the throttle early as well and lost some time off of (Turn) 4. When the 99 came through, his moment was in (Turns) 1 and 2, but he had a really good 3 and 4 and was able to nip us both there."
For his part, Keselowski felt he left some speed on the race track.
"We had a really decent lap, for sure, but I thought I left a little bit out there," Keselowski said. "I know we're starting up front, but I also know we left a little out there, so I'm a little disappointed in myself."