Kyle Larson will start the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts from the pole after qualifying was rained out Friday at Kentucky Speedway.
The starting lineup for the debut of a lower downforce rules package was set by speeds from an opening practice Friday halted after 49 minutes because of rain. Larson was awarded his second career Sprint Cup Series pole after posting the session's top speed of 182.537 mph.
"We were quick in race trim off the truck then we went to a mock qualifying trim and were really fast," he said. "I was able to lay down a really fast lap and go back to race trim and felt good there, too."
NASCAR added a second practice session after canceling Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series qualifying. It was scheduled to run for 90 minutes or until 6:25 p.m.
Larson led that practice as well with a 178.412 mph lap. Austin Dillon, who will start 11th in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, posted a 10 consecutive lap average of 175.177 mph that was just better than Larson's best 10 consecutive lap average.
Joining Larson on the front row Saturday will be a driver accustomed to running up front at Kentucky Speedway. Two-time and defending Quaker State 400 winner Brad Keselowski posted a 181.641 mph lap good enough for second fastest.
"I think we have a really good car," he said after practice. "I'm not sure we learned a ton, but I think we have a really good car is probably the biggest takeaway."
Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, competing in his final full season in NASCAR's top division, will start third in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Kentucky Speedway is the only track on the Sprint Cup schedule where Gordon has not yet recorded a victory.
Joey Logano will start fourth in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford followed by Martin Truex Jr. and six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
Past Quaker State 400 winners Kyle Busch (2011) and Matt Kenseth (2013) will start ninth and 16th. Kenseth spun late in the final practice but his car did not appear to have suffered much damage.
Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick will line up 15th and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is coming off a victory in the Coke Zero 400, will start 10th.
Saturday's race will be the first using NASCAR’s new aerodynamic package, which is designed to lessen downforce on the cars and increase side-by-side racing and passing opportunities.
But rain has plagued the lead-up to Saturday’s race.
Sprint Cup teams arrived Wednesday with a pair of two-hour practice sessions on the schedule. Those were postponed to Thursday, but more rain Thursday kept teams off the track until Friday morning.
Keselowski said the rules change lessens the car’s grip.
“The easiest way to explain that to someone is if you’re from somewhere where it snows it’s the difference between driving in great conditions and driving with a little bit of snow on the road,” he said. “You have to be more cognizant. If you get into a slide, it’s going to take longer to recover and it takes more skill in those situations than it does car performance - more driver’s skill.”
Three cars were sent home with qualifying canceled. For the second week in a row, the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford driven by Ryan Blaney and No. 95 Ford piloted by Michael McDowell were sent packing despite showing speed in practice.
Blaney was 21st in the abbreviated practice session while McDowell posted the 35th fastest lap. Travis Kvapil also missed making the race.
The rules favor teams that run a full-time schedule. In the event of a rainout, cars that have made more race attempts are eligible before those that have run less.
Wood Brothers Racing runs a partial Sprint Cup schedule with Blaney. The Quaker State 400 would have been Blaney’s seventh Sprint Cup start this season.
“That’s not a new rule,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, and then they set the field by practice speeds….Missing races, if you’re slow and you miss a race because you’re not fast enough, is a bad deal. That just kills your soul, but you can’t do anything about the weather.”