Keselowski nips Gordon for Richmond pole

Brad Keselowski
Mike Mercurio/AR1

Brad Keselowski added his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season as he topped Friday night's qualifying session for Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

Keselowski was the first driver on the track for the second and final round of knockout qualifying and turned in a lap of 21.324 seconds (126.618 mph) around the ¾-mile oval to notch his seventh-career Sprint Cup Series pole.

Jeff Gordon, who topped the first round of qualifying, took the outside pole with a lap of 21.422 seconds (126.039 mph), followed by Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.

Gordon, close but no cigar
Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing

Front-row starts seem to be easier to come by this season for Keselowski, under the new "knockout" qualifying format, with his four poles this season more than doubling his career total.

"It is certainly notable," said Keselowski of his newfound qualifying success. "My cars are significantly faster this year in qualifying trim than they ever have been. When you combine that with this format perhaps suiting our style a little better it is kind of a double whammy.

"I think it is more than just the format. I think with this format you have to be much more calculated and think ahead a lot more and you are rewarded for that."

Keselowski is one of five drivers – including Johnson, Gordon and Logano – who are tied at three wins a piece and fighting to be the top seed when the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins next week at Chicagoland Speedway.

Keselowski for one would love to score his first Richard Cup win to break that tie.

"I would love to get that fourth win," said Keselowski. "We have three wins and that is a great start to the season and something we can hang our hat on heading into the Chase but there are five guys all tied for first and I think we are all kind of about the same right now. It would be nice to put up another win and be kind of the lead dog so to speak."

Friday afternoon's searing track temperatures had teams scrambling to adjust their cars accordingly, made even more difficult but a longer-than-normal wait time to get through inspection.

Johnson, who posted his 15th top-10 start at Richmond and 13th of the season, was among several drivers who commented on the disparity of having the team's practice and qualify in the daytime – where the track temperatures are at their hottest – and then race at night.

"It's baffling to (the drivers) how we practice all day long and then race at night," said Johnson. "Jeff (Gordon) and I were talking about this before practice even started – it would make more sense to have a Cup practice after the Nationwide race, and let us practice at night to get ready for a night race."

"Come in later and practice later," added Gordon. "This tire seems to be laying a lot of rubber down. And so it looked like during the day, especially in the heat, it was laying rubber in the groove kept getting wider and wider. You just don't know if it's going to do that at night."

Clint Bowyer, who is one of six drivers vying for the final two spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup field, qualified sixth ahead of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Kyle Larson, who is also in the hunt for a Chase spot, qualified eighth. Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards – both already qualified for the Chase – rounded out the top ten.

Clay Rogers was the lone non-qualifier for the event.

Lineup

POS CAR DRIVER MANUFACTURER SPONSOR SPEED TIME BEHIND
1 2 Brad Keselowski Ford Miller Lite 126.618 21.324 Leader
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevy Drive to End Hunger 126.039 21.422 –0.098
3 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy Lowe's 125.898 21.446 –0.122
4 4 Kevin Harvick Chevy Budweiser 125.857 21.453 –0.129
5 22 Joey Logano Ford Shell Pennzoil 125.663 21.486 –0.162
6 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-Hour Energy 125.634 21.491 –0.167
7 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford Fifth Third Bank 125.476 21.518 –0.194
8 42 Kyle Larson Chevy Target 125.081 21.586 –0.262
9 41 Kurt Busch Chevy Haas Automation 124.913 21.615 –0.291
10 99 Carl Edwards Ford Kelloggs/Frosted Flakes 124.665 21.658 –0.334
11 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 124.562 21.676 –0.352
12 31 Ryan Newman Chevy Caterpillar 124.464 21.693 –0.369
13 10 Danica Patrick Chevy GoDaddy 124.832 21.629 –0.305
14 27 Paul Menard Chevy Sylvania / Menards 124.694 21.653 –0.329
15 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy CESSNA 124.694 21.653 –0.329
16 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota Dollar General 124.619 21.666 –0.342
17 16 Greg Biffle Ford No. 16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford Fusion 124.573 21.674 –0.350
18 55 Brian Vickers Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 124.493 21.688 –0.364
19 14 Tony Stewart Chevy Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 124.424 21.700 –0.376
20 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 124.390 21.706 –0.382
21 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy Farmer's Insurance 124.349 21.713 –0.389
22 13 Casey Mears Chevy No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS 124.309 21.720 –0.396
23 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevy Bush's Beans 124.275 21.726 –0.402
24 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevy Nationwide Insurance 124.269 21.727 –0.403
25 23 Alex Bowman Toyota Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry 124.252 21.730 –0.406
26 43 Aric Almirola Ford Gwaltney 124.224 21.735 –0.411
27 51 Justin Allgaier Chevy BRANDT Professional Agriculture 124.212 21.737 –0.413
28 3 Austin Dillon Chevy American Ethanol 124.007 21.773 –0.449
29 78 Martin Truex Jr Chevy Furniture Row 123.887 21.794 –0.470
30 38 David Gilliland Ford Long John Silver's 123.785 21.812 –0.488
31 90 David Stremme Chevy Junie Donlavey Tribute 123.717 21.824 –0.500
32 36 Reed Sorenson Chevy TBA 123.683 21.830 –0.506
33 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford DeWalt 123.440 21.873 –0.549
34 40 Landon Cassill Chevy Newtown Building Supplies 123.389 21.882 –0.558
35 26 Cole Whitt Toyota Standard Plumbing Supply Toyota 123.350 21.889 –0.565
36 98 Josh Wise Chevy Provident Metals 123.271 21.903 –0.579
37 32 Travis Kvapil Ford CorvetteParts.net 123.226 21.911 –0.587
38 93 J.J. Yeley Toyota Burger King Toyota Camry 123.164 21.922 –0.598
39 37 Mike Bliss Chevy Accell Construction Inc. 122.371 22.064 –0.740
40 7 Michael Annett Chevy Pilot / Flying J Chevrolet 122.255 22.085 –0.761
41 66 Joe Nemechek Toyota Friedman Law Firm 121.764 22.174 –0.850
42 34 David Ragan Ford CSX Play It Safe 0.000 0.000 -21.324
43 83 Ryan Truex Toyota Burger King Toyota Camry 0.000 0.000 -21.324

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