KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Joey Logano hopped out of his car and thanked the Team Penske crew members for all the wise adjustments they made Friday before he qualified for the pole position in Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.
He was joking, but there was no sarcasm in his irony.
"We made zero changes from the time we unloaded to qualifying," Logano said after his lap of 191.646 mph in the No. 22 Ford Fusion landed him on the pole. "They did a great job of preparing the car."
Logano heads into the final race before the playoff field is cut from 12 drivers to eight with a 39-point buffer, so it wasn't as if he was in trouble. But starting up front allows him to chase stage points early, and that could eliminate some of the pressure later in the race.
"It helps a little bit. We want to be able to score some stage points to start," he said, "but hopefully we don't have to worry about points and we can just go win the race."
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick is in similar shape after qualifying second Friday, while fellow playoff drivers Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounded out the starting top five. Almirola continued his hot streak from last week's win at Talladega Superspeedway, leading the second round of qualifying before finishing third in the final round.
Almirola said he's excited to be "racing for a championship all the way to the end of the year. That's an incredible feeling."
Keselowski is the first driver outside the playoff cutoff.
Kyle Busch, who sits between Harvick and Logano in the standings, will start sixth after a solid showing at a track he has slowly grown to love. Kansas native Clint Bowyer will start 14th and 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex qualified 12th with both drivers on the playoff bubble.
Bowyer is seventh in the playoff standings, and it appeared he would be starting up front after leading the first qualifying round. But he failed to survive the second round, and now his hopes of winning at what he considers his home track are a bit murkier.
Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10, while Kyle Larson crashed his primary car in practice and officially qualified 27th, though he'll be sent to the back to start Sunday.
"I think we'll be fine. Our cars are always good here when we come to Kansas," Larson said. "I wish we didn't wreck our primary car. Our primary car is usually better. But we'll be fine."
Larson lost an appeal Friday of his 10-point penalty from last Sunday's race Talladega, where NASCAR found his team used unapproved pieces to fix some damage. Larson figured he needed to win at Kansas anyway to advance in the playoffs, so he was more miffed over his practice crash than the penalty.
In addition to his loss of points, crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $25,000 and car chief David Bryant was suspended for Sunday's race.
"I've had a backup car here before and been really fast," Larson said.
Chase Elliott has already advanced to the final eight thanks to his win two weeks ago at Dover International Speedway, but he was still upset by failing to make the final round of qualifying. He'll start 13th.
"To me this is a test this weekend to see how you're going to be on the (1.5-mile tracks) the rest of the season," Elliott said. "If you struggle this weekend, you probably have your work cut out for you."
Keselowski and Blaney are the top two drivers outside the playoff cutoff, and both drive for Team Penske. But that doesn't mean things are awkward between them.
"We don't quiz each other before any week, whether it's the second race of the year or this week," Blaney said. "We just talk between teams, try to work together the best you can."