Brad Keselowski wins Coca-Cola 600 pole
Brad Keselowski scored his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in Thursday night’s qualifying session for Sunday’s 52nd Annual Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Taking advantage of a late qualifying spot and cooler track temperatures, Keselowski topped the speed charts at 192.089 mph in the no. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to knock off A.J. Allmendinger, earning his first pole since last September and the first Charlotte pole for Penske Racing since Ryan Newman took the top spot in May of 2007.
“This car was awesome man. Awesome!” Keselowski said. “Fast cars go fast and this is a team is making a lot of progress. We made some awesome gains in the Blue Deuce. Every week, we just keep picking away a little here, a little bit there. We’re starting to get more people to believe in us. My guys gave me a really fast race car and we were able to put it together for a qualifying lap.
“My crew chief Paul Wolfe, he lives off of Perth Road, so maybe he found some secrets there,” said Keselowski, referring the road where Kyle Busch was recently ticketed doing 128 mph. “I don’t know. There is a lot of speed on that road I hear.”
It was Keselowski’s second trip to Charlotte’s victory lane in the last week after winning last Saturday night’s Sprint Showdown transfer into the All Star race, where he finished 20th after losing his brakes.
Keselowski has been the bright spot for Penske Racing in the past few weeks, following dismal performances by himself and teammate Kurt Busch that led to Busch openly criticizing his team over his in-car radio. The team’s technical director, Tom German, also recently announced he was leaving the team.
“I felt like from race five (California) on we’ve actually out-performed (Kurt Busch), but haven’t out-finished,” said Keselowski. “We haven’t executed. As a team, we’re getting to where we have performance, but not execution. The next step for us is to execute.
“We had a really fast car last week. I felt like we were a top-five car at worst. We had problems. We broke the brakes on the car and didn’t execute. At Dover the week before, again, I felt like we were a fifth-place car at the end of the race and I stalled it on pit road. All those things, it’s team execution. It’s myself. It’s the shop. We need to execute just a little bit better and then we’ll have the 2 car where it consistently performs.”
Allmendinger held onto the second qualifying spot with a speed of 191.693 mph, followed by NASCAR All Star race winner Carl Edwards (191.686 mph), Denny Hamlin (191.367 mph) and Jeff Burton (191.245 mph).
Edwards will be looking to score his first Sprint Cup points event at Charlotte, after nailing his first career All Star victory here last Saturday.
If Edwards does make it back to victory lane on Sunday, it will be behind the wheel of a different car than the one he raced with last Saturday, which was destroyed in a post-race crash.
“I think this car might be better actually,” said Edwards. “I didn’t know that the car I tore up had been torn up at Phoenix and it raced at Martinsville and got beat and banged up there. I didn’t feel so bad after that, but this one that we’ve got now is a brand new car and it’s neat.”
Jimmie Johnson was sixth, followed by 2009 Coca Cola 600 winner David Reutimann and David Ragan.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., making his Sprint Cup debut in place of Trevor Bayne in the no. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, was the last of the 48 drivers to take to the track and qualified ninth. Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10.
I didn’t imagine we would have a lap that good, but we’ll definitely take it. I left a little bit out there because we just had to get in. These Wood Brothers guys did an awesome job and I just can’t wait to get in the race on Sunday and just try to make all the laps we can. It’s a long race. I’ve got a lot to learn.
Andy Lally spun during his qualifying attempt but made a spectacular save to avoid hitting the wall, however his speed was not enough to get him in the show, joining non-qualifiers Scott Riggs, Tony Raines, Scott Wimmer and T.J. Bell.
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