Keselowski Leads Penske Front Row Sweep in Quaker State 400 Qualifying
SPARTA, Ky. - Brad Keselowski knocked teammate Joey Logano from the top spot in the final round of Quaker State 400 qualifying with a blistering lap of 188.791 mph that earned him the pole for Saturday's race at Kentucky Speedway.
It's the third front row sweep by the Team Penske drivers and third pole for Keselowski this season.
"The last year's we were off in qualifying, so yin yang, it's balancing back out," the driver of the No. 2 Ford said. "I'm proud of that. I'm really happy….We've just got to make it count on race day. Qualifying is great but at the end of the week, or the start of the next week on Monday, nobody talks about who qualified on the pole. They talk about won the race. I want to be that guy. That's the most important thing."
NASCAR's new knockout qualifying format started under threatening skies Friday but delivered thrills, surprises and speeds not seen out of the Sprint Cup Series cars in their previous three visits to Kentucky Speedway.
Twenty-three drivers of the 42 entered in Saturday's race topped the track qualifying mark of 183.636 mph set last year by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt didn't advance out of the first round, and neither did Hendrick Motorsports teammate, six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
"Race trim wise I think we're in good shape," said Johnson, who led a race-high 182 laps in last year's Quaker State 400. "We made a qualifying run at the end of practice and went slower than our race trim, so that's discouraging coming into qualifying. We didn't get the lap we needed out there and didn't transfer."
Johnson will start 25th in the No. 48 Chevrolet but had the fastest 10-lap average in final practice Friday. Earnhardt will start 29th in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
"We've been fighting the car all day and haven't had any gains," Earnhardt said. "We haven't been able to figure out what we need to do. But we just haven't had good speed. The car is rough. It's just really bouncing all the way down the straightaway all the way through the corners. We're having a real rough go of it."
Points leader Jeff Gordon qualified third in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and will be joined on Row 2 by Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Kentucky Speedway is the only track on the Sprint Cup schedule where Gordon has not won a race, and the four-time series champion would like to check it off the list.
"Boy, we sure would," he said. "We have a great racecar. That was an awesome qualifying session as far as I'm concerned."
Keselowski and Logano have a history of success at Kentucky Speedway and are building a reputation as formidable qualifiers.
Keselowski won the Quaker State 400 in 2012 and Nationwide Series races in 2011 and 2013. Earlier Friday, he won the pole for the Nationwide race.
Logano won three consecutive Nationwide races at Kentucky from the pole from 2008-2010 and finished fourth in last year's Quaker State 400.
His No. 22 Ford was fastest in the first two rounds Friday and he wound up second to Keselowski with a lap of 187.175 mph in the third round.
"Brad found some magic there that last run," Logano said. "That was a really good lap, for sure."
Defending race winner Matt Kenseth will start 14th in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and teammate Kyle Busch, the inaugural Quaker State 400 winner who entered all three races this weekend, qualified 18th in the No. 18 Toyota.
"Qualifying in that second round, I just missed Turn 1 and probably cost us half-a-tenth and that was the difference between making it (to the final round) and not making it," Kenseth said.
- Kentucky Speedway -