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Matt Kenseth wins NASCAR pole at Richmond after penalties flap

April 26, 2013|By Jim Peltz
  • Matt Kenseth gives a fist bump to a crew member after winning the pole for Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.
Matt Kenseth gives a fist bump to a crew member after winning the pole for… (Steve Helber / Associated…)

Matt Kenseth is back to letting his car doing the talking, thank you.

Kenseth on Friday won the pole position for the next Sprint Cup Series race one day after he blasted NASCAR for the penalties levied against the driver and his team following their win last weekend.

Kenseth turned a lap of 130.334 mph in his No. 20 Toyota to win the pole for Saturday night's race at the 0.75-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

"One of our goals this weekend was to come here and sit on the pole and kind of quiet down at least part of the noise" over the penalties, Kenseth told reporters in Richmond. "I was pretty glad we were able to accomplish that."

After Kenseth won from the pole at Kansas Speedway last Sunday, NASCAR found that the rod connecting one of the pistons to the crankshaft in Kenseth's engine was too light.

NASCAR then issued massive penalties, including stripping Kenseth of 50 championship points and suspending his Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Jason Ratcliff for several races.

The penalties, which Gibbs Racing is appealing, knocked Kenseth from eighth in the Cup title standings to a tie with Jeff Gordon in 14th.

Toyota Racing Development in Costa Mesa, which built the engine, said the rod was underweight by 2.7 grams, or the weight of about two cotton balls. TRD took the blame for the faulty part, said the underweight rod provided no advantage and maintained there was no intent to cheat.

Kenseth reiterated that stance Thursday and criticized NASCAR's penalties as "grossly unfair."

Joe Gibbs, the Hall of Fame NFL coach, likewise told reporters earlier Friday that "there was not an intent to circumvent the rules."

Brian Vickers, who's filling in for the injured Denny Hamlin in Gibbs' No. 11 Toyota, qualified second at Richmond and will start alongside Kenseth on the front row.

Gordon qualified third and Kasey Kahne, Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, was fourth.

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