For the second time in 2011, a potential sweep of the front row by Richard Petty Motorsports teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose was spoiled in the final moments of qualifying. At the Glen, Kyle Busch beat out Allmendinger as the final car to qualify. Saturday, it was Matt Kenseth - the next-to-last driver to qualify - who beat the RPM duo to grab the pole for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway.
After Allmendinger and Ambrose, the top-five is completed by Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. Jamie McMurray and David Reutimann were sixth and seventh, followed by Sprint Cup championship contenders Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-10.
Kenseth failed to eclipse Edwards track record, which seemed a certainty after Friday's practice saw 23 drivers turn a faster lap in the opening practice that set the qualifying lineup. The difference was a sun-bathed, slick race track that had even five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson - riding a streak of ten-consecutive top-fives at Phoenix - nearly sliding into the wall.
Former USAC standout Cole Whitt, driving a third car for Team Red Bull, qualified 19th. The talented Californian, who has impressed in his first full season of Camping World Truck Series competition this year, will make his Sprint Cup debut Sunday.
Failing to make the show were Scott Riggs, David Stremme, and Andy Lally. Lally spun on his qualifying lap, continuing a frustrating season for the driver soon to be named - effectively by default as he is the only first-year driver to contest the majority of the races - the 2011 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year.