Byline: DUSTIN LONG
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kasey Kahne won't win the NASCAR Nextel Cup championship, but no one has had a season like him. He won the pole for Sunday's race, which will feature Juan Pablo Montoya's Cup debut.
Series points leader Jimmie Johnson qualified 15th. Johnson needs only to finish 12th or better Sunday to clinch the championship.
"We're certainly excited to just get to work," Johnson said.
Matt Kenseth, who trails Johnson by 63 points, starts 19th. Kevin Harvick qualified seventh. He's tied for third in the points with Denny Hamlin, who will start 33rd. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the only other driver with a chance to win the title, starts 14th.
Michael Waltrip was among those who failed to qualify. This will be the third race Waltrip will not start this season. Ward Burton also failed to qualify as 56 cars vied for 43 spots.
Kahne won the pole with a lap of 178.259 mph. Four of his six poles this season have come at tracks 1.5-miles long, the size of Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Kahne has a series-high six victories and six poles this season. Only Kurt Busch equaled Kahne's pole total this season. No one can match his six wins.
Kahne's teammate, Scott Riggs, starts second with a lap of 178.218 mph. Kyle Busch (178.118 mph), Elliott Sadler (178.059) and Jeff Burton (177.983) complete the top five.
Montoya, a former Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula One winner, qualified at 175.581 mph, good enough for 29th.
Montoya admits it was "stressful" to qualify for his first Cup race since his car did not have one of the 35 guaranteed starting spots.
"You don't want to come out here and look like an idiot because you didn't make the show," Montoya said.
Car owner Chip Ganassi said his expectations for Montoya are modest.
"I'd be happy if we run all the laps," Ganassi said. "My expectation is for him not to be a factor in the championship. I don't want someone to come back and say we had a guy in his first Cup race who got in the way."
FAMILIAR LOOK: Car owner Robert Yates said Friday he will have two teams next season after finding a sponsor for his second car.
Yates had been searching since this summer for a replacement for UPS on the No. 88. The company will follow Dale Jarrett to Michael Waltrip Racing for next season.
Yates did not say who the new sponsor will be. No decision on a driver has been made. Yates isn't worried.
"We're in business, so we're happy," he said.
It didn't last long. Jarrett crashed in practice Friday and the team had to go to a backup car. Jarrett starts 41st Sunday.
WINNER: Robby Gordon was a part of the winning Trophy Truck team in the Baja 1000. It's Gordon's third Baja 1000 victory.
Gordon drove 725 miles in one of off-road racing's biggest races before giving way to 19-year-old co-driver Andy McMillin. Gordon and McMillin completed the Mexican race in 191/2 hours.
Gordon arrived in Homestead, Fla., around 9 a.m. Friday.
Contact Dustin Long at 373-7062 or email@example.com