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NASCAR Kobalt Tools 400: Matt Kenseth's Day In Vegas?

Matt Kenseth has not visited a Sprint Cup victory lane in more than two years, last taking the checkered flag in February 2009 at California a week after winning the 51st Daytona 500.

Today's Kobalt Tools 400 (3 p.m. Eastern, FOX) could very well bring about the end of that drought.

There have been two practice sessions and one qualifying session this weekend at Las Vegas, and each has ended with Kenseth's No. 17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford Fusion atop the leaderboard. He nipped Marcos Ambrose in record-setting fashion to grab his fifth career pole and first since 2009.

Kenseth is a two-time winner at Las Vegas. His 2003 victory was his lone win of his championship season, which ultimately led to the advent of the Chase for the Cup playoff system. He repeated in Vegas in 2004 and has three other top-fives, including fifth last March.

Another former Las Vegas winner could be Kenseth's chief challenger, however.

Teammate Carl Edwards, the 2008 Las Vegas winner, starts third in his No. 99 Ford and has been in the top-five in each practice session. He has historically performed at his best on intermediate tracks like the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, recording 13 of his 18 career wins on high-banked tracks a mile or longer in length.

That one win, however, is his lone top-five at Las Vegas and one of only two top tens (sixth in 2007).

All told, three of Jack Roush's four teams start in the top four positions, with Greg Biffle holding the fourth spot. Unadilla native David Ragan spun on his qualifying effort, but he has been quick in practice as well and could be a contender for his first career victory despite starting at the back of the field.

Point leader and Las Vegas native Kyle Busch is the highest-qualified non Ford in fifth. He won at Las Vegas in 2009 and is coming off a bitter disappointment in yesterday's Nationwide Series race, where he led more than 80 laps before crashing just past the race's midpoint. Mark Martin won that race and extended his career wins record in that series to 49. The winner of the inaugural Las Vegas event starts tenth.

Other potential headliners include Ambrose, the native of Tasmania who is seeking his first career Sprint Cup victory, last week's winner at Phoenix, Jeff Gordon, who starts 13th, and four-time Las Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson, starting next to his Hendrick teammate in the 14th position.

Kobalt Tools 400 Starting Grid:

Row 1: Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford) & Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Ford)

Row 2: Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford) & Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)

Row 3: Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) & Joey Logano (No. 20 Toyota)

Row 4: AJ Allmendinger (No. 43 Ford) & Ryan Newman (No. 39 Chevrolet)

Row 5: Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56 Toyota) & Mark Martin (No. 5 Chevrolet)

Read the rest of the lineup here.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.