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Keselowski wins pole in Phoenix

Penske team sweeps front row
Saturday, March 01, 2014

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First race that Alliance Truck Parts sponsors Brad Keselowski in Sprint Cup and presto, he's on pole
Getty Images for NASCAR
At times it was dramatic.

At times it was chaotic.

But, with drivers trying to cool their engines and tires -- not to mention fighting for enough room to complete clean laps -- Brad Keselowski won the pole for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in debut of NASCAR’s new group knockout qualifying format in the Sprint Cup Series.

Keselowski won his first Coors Light Pole of the season and the fourth of his career with a track-record lap on Friday at the one-mile speedway. In the 10-minute round that determined the pole, Keselowski completed a lap at 139.384 mph, breaking the record of 139.222 mph set by Jimmie Johnson before last year’s Chase race in November.

Fellow Team Penske driver Joey Logano (139.265 mph) will start on the outside of the front row beside his teammate. Logano was fastest in the opening session that narrowed the number of drivers eligible for the pole from 46 to 12.

Jamie McMurray (138.969 mph) qualified third, followed by Johnson (138.350 mph) and Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. (138.344 mph). Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, rookie Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin completed the top 12.

"It’s a lot more nerve-wracking," Keselowski said of the new format. "Usually there’s a pretty good rule of thumb: if it’s a lot more nerve-wracking for drivers, it’s a lot more fun for fans and partners and all those things. That’s a good thing.

"I’m more curious (about) the feedback we get from our fans and everybody else, whether or not they liked it, because, at the end of the day, it’s not about whether I like it. It’s about whether they like it. I like it, because it fits my style, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s about what our fans care for, and I’d be interested to see the feedback over time."

There was drama at the end of the first 30-minute session, as several drivers waited until the closing minutes to show their hands. With just over six minutes left, Kevin Harvick popped into the top 12, only to be knocked back to 13th when both Earnhardt Jr. and Hamlin cracked the top 12 in the late going.

In an early run under cloud cover, Logano ran the fastest lap of the session at 139.190 mph. Keselowski was second, followed by the Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt.

With the emphasis on cooling the engines at a premium, teams had their drivers circulate around the inside of the track at 30 mph, a strategy that caused some consternation, even though the drivers in that mode were successful in steering clear of cars making hot laps at the same time.

"When you're going out there and you're going 100 miles per hour slower, the closing rate is really fast, so it's kind of scary," Logano said.

McMurray felt NASCAR should consider allowing teams to cool their engines with generators on pit road, rather than running slowly on the track and risking interference with cars making qualifying runs.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, said allowing cooling units on pit road might cause the strategic element of the new format to suffer. Pemberton, however, did emphasize the sanctioning body’s continuing dialogue with the race teams.

"It’s important for us to work together with the teams to come up with the right solutions," Pemberton said.

Notes: Landon Cassill, Josh Wise and Dave Blaney failed to qualify for the 43-car field. ... The top three qualifiers all drive for teams with IndyCar affiliations. The IndyCar Series uses the knockout format in road course qualifying, and as Keselowski said, team owner Roger Penske "was all over that."

Results

Pos # Driver Make Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 2 Brad Keselowski Ford Alliance Truck Parts 139.384 25.828 Leader
2 22 Joey Logano Ford Shell Pennzoil 139.265 25.850 --0.022
3 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Cessna-Bad Boy Buggies 138.969 25.905 --0.077
4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 138.350 26.021 --0.193
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet National Guard 138.344 26.022 --0.194
6 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 138.339 26.023 --0.195
7 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Skittles 138.318 26.027 --0.199
8 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Clorox 138.318 26.027 --0.199
9 43 Aric Almirola Ford Farmland 138.281 26.034 --0.206
10 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Haas Automation 138.047 26.078 --0.250
11 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 137.889 26.108 --0.280
12 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 137.315 26.217 --0.389
13 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's 137.815 26.122 --0.294
14 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-Hour Energy 137.810 26.123 --0.295
15 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Quicken Loans 137.794 26.126 --0.298
16 55 Brian Vickers Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 137.788 26.127 --0.299
17 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi MAX 137.741 26.136 --0.308
18 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS 137.588 26.165 --0.337
19 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota Home Depot Husky 137.546 26.173 --0.345
20 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 137.483 26.185 --0.357
21 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford NOS 137.473 26.187 --0.359
22 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Pittsburgh Paints / Menards 137.347 26.211 --0.383
23 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 137.216 26.236 --0.408
24 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet American Ethanol 137.200 26.239 --0.411
25 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet Clorox Fraganzia 137.179 26.243 --0.415
26 95 Michael McDowell Ford K-Love 137.065 26.265 --0.437
27 78 Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet Furniture Row 136.903 26.296 --0.468
28 38 David Gilliland Ford Love's Travel Stops 136.867 26.303 --0.475
29 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Mac Tools 136.794 26.317 --0.489
30 34 David Ragan Ford Farm Rich 136.789 26.318 --0.490
31 26 Cole Whitt Toyota GEAR Speed Stick 136.726 26.330 --0.502
32 33 Brian Scott Chevrolet White Tail 136.721 26.331 --0.503
33 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy 136.545 26.365 --0.537
34 83 Ryan Truex Toyota Borla Exhaust Toyota Camry 135.875 26.495 --0.667
35 23 Alex Bowman Toyota Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry 135.614 26.546 --0.718
36 30 Parker Kligerman Toyota TBA 135.384 26.591 --0.763
37 35 Blake Koch Ford MDS Transport 135.262 26.615 --0.787
38 66 Joe Nemechek Toyota Land Castle Title 134.983 26.670 --0.842
39 36 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet TBA 134.897 26.687 --0.859
40 32 Travis Kvapil Ford Ask More-Get More 134.771 26.712 --0.884
41 7 Michael Annett Chevrolet Accell Construction 134.148 26.836 --1.008
42 87 Morgan Shepherd Toyota Morris-Hardwick-Schneider 128.995 27.908 --2.080
43 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet BRANDT Professional Agriculture 0.000 0.000 -25.828

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