Fort Worth, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Tony Stewart will start on the pole for a Sprint Cup Series race for the first time in 19 months after edging Brad Keselowski in the closing seconds of Saturday's qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.
Keselowski held the provisional pole after turning a lap at 195.419 mph early in the third and final qualifying round, but Stewart waited until the end of the round to make his attempt. The three-time Sprint Cup champion was clocked at 195.454 mph as time expired in the session.
Stewart, who missed the final 15 races of the 2013 season due to a leg injury, claimed his 15th career pole in the series but his first since September 2012 at Atlanta. He became the seventh different pole winner in as many races this season.
"I'm not normally a qualifier," Stewart said. "In the third round, it was a matter of waiting until the end, trying to let the tires cool off as much as we could. Got out and had a really good lap. [Crew chief] Chad Johnston did an awesome job making an adjustment there at the end. Got us freed up a little bit. It was a little too much, but it was good enough to get us where we needed to be. So it was a really strong lap."
This was also Stewart's second pole in 24 starts at Texas. He has won at this 1.5-mile racetrack twice (fall events in 2006 and '11).
Since NASCAR began using its new "knockout-style" qualifying format the first weekend in March at Phoenix, Keselowski has earned a front row starting position in every race except last weekend's event at Martinsville, where he started 14th.
"We wanted to sit on the pole, but it wasn't meant to be," Keselowski said. "Tony obviously put down a great lap there at the end. I didn't see that one coming. I thought we had it, but that's why they do it this way. It's really exciting, and I think a lot of fun to watch, and quite honestly, it's a lot of fun to participate in this new format of qualifying."
Kevin Harvick, who is Stewart's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, qualified third. Harvick set a new track qualifying record at Texas with a lap at 198.282 mph during the first round of qualifying.
"The car was just tight in all three runs," Harvick said. "As it progressed there, we just got tighter. It just didn't make a big enough swing to get it exactly where it needed to be, but for us, that's a big improvement from where we've been on qualifying days."
Greg Biffle took the fourth spot, followed by Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Trevor Bayne and Ryan Newman.
Qualifying ninth through 12th were: Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, who won at Martinsville, and Jeff Gordon.
Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion and three-time race winner at Texas, failed to advance into the final round of qualifying for the first time this season. Johnson will start 16th.
"We have a very fast race car, in race trim especially," Johnson said. "Our car is blazing fast. Qualifying hasn't always been my strong suit, and today it showed up here for whatever reason."
Other notable drivers and their starting positions include: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (19th), Danica Patrick (24th), Matt Kenseth (26th) and Kyle Busch (29th). Busch won last year's spring race at Texas.
David Stremme, Ryan Truex, Joe Nemechek and J.J. Yeley failed to qualify for Sunday's Duck Commander 500 at Texas, which is scheduled to start just after 3 p.m. ET.