RICHMOND, Va. -- David Reutimann picked a heck of a race to win his fourth career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole.
Reutimann turned a lap at 127.383 mph Friday night, claiming the top starting spot in the race that will begin with more than a dozen drivers trying to secure one of the three spots still up for grabs in the 10-race playoffs that begin next weekend.
The 12-driver field will be set after tonight's 400-lap event, and under the new format, the final two wild card spots will go to the drivers ranked 11 to 20 in the points who have the most regular-season victories.
As Reutimann sees it, he's just as entitled to race for the victory as anyone else.
"No different than any other race," he said when asked how his approach might change given the stakes involved for so many other teams. "You just go out there and try to outrun them. You don't want to mess with anybody's day, but I'm out for me."
Jamie McMurray, another driver out of contention for a Chase spot, will start on the outside of the front row.
"Bono (crew chief Kevin Manion) said on the radio after our qualifying lap it was just one of those days everything just went the way it should," McMurray said. He's 25th in the point standings and Reutimann is 28th.
Five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson will start third, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin to his outside. Martin is among the drivers who need to win the race and have several other contenders falter to find his way into the Chase field.
Among the drivers in closest contention for the final three spots, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 27th, and Tony Stewart qualified 22nd. Earnhardt, who is ninth in the standings, needs only to finish 20th or better to secure a playoff berth. Stewart, who is 10th, needs to be 18th or better.
"I think we've got a car that runs well," Stewart said. "It seems like after about 10 laps our car is as good as anybody else's and maybe a tick better after 20 laps on. Hopefully, we'll get a lot of long, green-flag runs tomorrow night."
Local favorite Denny Hamlin, who has won the last two fall races on 0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway oval, qualified to the outside of Earnhardt in 28th place. Hamlin is 12th in points and holding the second wild-card spot. A victory would lock up a berth, but he'd also get in as long as an eligible driver ranked below him in points doesn't earn a second, tie-breaking victory, or if Brad Keselowski moves into the top 10 in points and Hamlin is still the highest-rated driver outside the top-10 with a victory.
Keselowski, with three victories this season, has locked up a spot in the field, but is 11th in points. If he was to move into the top 10 after the race, becoming an automatic qualifier, drivers lower in the standings who have a victory could suddenly climb into contention.