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Brad Keselowski wins Coca-Cola 600 pole

by Pete McCole
Friday, May 27, 2011

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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.

Lineup

POS CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 192.089 28.112 Leader
2 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford U.S. Air Force 191.693 28.170 -0.058
3 99 Carl Edwards Ford Scotts EZ Seed 191.686 28.171 -0.059
4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 191.367 28.218 -0.106
5 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 191.245 28.236 -0.124
6 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's Summer Salute 191.069 28.262 -0.150
7 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine / Armed Forces Foundation 190.921 28.284 -0.172
8 6 David Ragan Ford UPS "We Love Logistics" 190.799 28.302 -0.190
9 21 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 190.752 28.309 -0.197
10 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 190.705 28.316 -0.204
11 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 190.604 28.331 -0.219
12 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 190.564 28.337 -0.225
13 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / GoDaddy.com 190.409 28.360 -0.248
14 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 190.201 28.391 -0.279
15 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 190.161 28.397 -0.285
16 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Moen / Menards 190.067 28.411 -0.299
17 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 189.893 28.437 -0.325
18 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 189.867 28.441 -0.329
19 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Jeremiah Weed Southern Style 189.860 28.442 -0.330
20 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 189.767 28.456 -0.344
21 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 189.440 28.505 -0.393
22 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 189.414 28.509 -0.397
23 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 189.321 28.523 -0.411
24 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Dewalt 189.288 28.528 -0.416
25 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 188.937 28.581 -0.469
26 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 188.844 28.595 -0.483
27 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford / Bush's Beans 188.653 28.624 -0.512
28 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser Armed Forces Tribute 188.416 28.660 -0.548
29 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 188.160 28.699 -0.587
30 34 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 188.048 28.716 -0.604
31 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 187.990 28.725 -0.613
32 195 David Starr Ford Jordan Truck Sales 187.944 28.732 -0.620
33 66 Michael McDowell Toyota Keyper Systems 187.682 28.772 -0.660
34 46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Red Line Oil 187.513 28.798 -0.686
35 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 187.201 28.846 -0.734
36 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 187.169 28.851 -0.739
37 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 186.994 28.878 -0.766
38 30 David Stremme Chevrolet Inception Motorsports 186.916 28.890 -0.778
39 32 Mike Bliss Ford Donnie Myers RV Service 186.413 28.968 -0.856
40 09 Landon Cassill+ Chevrolet Thank A Teacher Today / Security Benefit 185.567 29.100 -0.988
41 7 Robby Gordon+ Dodge Speed Energy 184.780 29.224 -1.112
42 36 Dave Blaney+ Chevrolet Disabled American Veterans / Golden Corral 184.527 29.264 -1.152
43 60 Mike Skinner Toyota Big Red 186.774 28.912 -0.800
. . Did Not Qualify . . . . .
44 71 Andy Lally* Ford TRG Motorsports 186.651 28.931 -0.819
45 150 T.J. Bell Toyota Green Smoke 186.567 28.944 -0.832
46 177 Scott Wimmer Dodge Speed Energy 186.213 28.999 -0.887
47 37 Tony Raines Ford Black Cat Fireworks 184.483 29.271 -1.159
48 181 Scott Riggs Chevrolet Whitney's Collision Centers 183.730 29.391 -1.279

+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie

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