Keselowski claims pole at Kentucky with new track record

 

The Sports Network

Sparta, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Brad Keselowski won the pole for the Quaker State 400, while his teammate, Joey Logano, qualified second to give Team Penske a front row sweep for Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Keselowski, who won the 400-mile race at Kentucky during his 2012 championship season in the Sprint Cup Series, set a new track record here with a lap at 188.791 mph during the third and final round of Friday's qualifying. He earned his sixth career pole in the series, including his third this season.

"The last few years we've been awful in qualifying, so ying and yang, it's balancing back out," Keselowski said. "It's a huge morale booster for us, and we've got to make it count on race day. Qualifying is great, but on Monday, nobody talks about who won the pole. They talk about who won the race. We want to be that guy."

Earlier in the day, Keselowski grabbed the pole for the 300-mile Nationwide Series race at this track. He also posted the quickest lap in the second and final Sprint Cup practice session.

Logano held the provisional pole with a lap at 187.175 mph until Keselowski came on the track late in the final round. Logano had posted the fastest laps in the first and second qualifying rounds.

"We won the first two segments, but Brad had a lot of speed in practice, and we kind of wondered where it went the first couple of runs in qualifying," Logano said. "He figured it out again, obviously. We still have a good race car. I think our Ford is going to be good in the race. We have a good starting spot."

It's the third time this season that Team Penske has started 1-2 in a Sprint Cup race.

Jeff Gordon, the current points leader, qualified third, followed by Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and rookie Kyle Larson.

Finishing seventh through 12th in the last segment of qualifying were: Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.

Tony Stewart missed the cut for the final round by just 0.007 seconds. Stewart will start 13th, one spot ahead of Matt Kenseth, who won at Kentucky one year ago.

With the exception of Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports struggled in qualifying, as Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. failed to advance into the second segment. Johnson, the six-time series champion and winner of three races this season, will start 25th, while Earnhardt will roll off 29th. Kasey Kahne qualified 20th.

"We made a qualifying run at the end of practice and went slower than our race run, so it's discouraging coming into qualifying," Johnson said. "We didn't get the lap that we needed out there and didn't transfer. But I feel actually decent about our car in race trim. We put up a great two runs in the final practice session. We just couldn't get out of our own way in Q-trim."

The top-23 finishers in qualifying surpassed the previous track record of 183.636 mph, set by Earnhardt one year ago.

All 42 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field for the event. It will be the first time since November 2001 (New Hampshire) that a Sprint Cup race does not feature a full 43-car field.

Read more Sprint Cup stories from the Miami Herald

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