ROLL FOR THE POLE — Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski has struggled mightily in recent weeks, but he rebounded nicely at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday afternoon, claiming the pole for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a lap of 135.922 miles per hour.
“We have a really fast race car,” said Keselowski. “The Blue Deuce has been fast since we unloaded here and we came here and tested a few weeks back and the guys did a great job giving me an awesome car. I don’t feel like I nailed a perfect lap but my guys carried me with that car. Hopefully it will be this fast on Sunday when it really counts.”
Keselowski said he and his Penske Racing team are ready for a reversal of fortune after slumping in recent weeks.
“There is a sense of urgency but not a sense of panic,” Keselowski said of the team. “I think there is a strong difference between the two. We are eager to get going, we are hungry and feel like we can do it but I don’t feel as sense of panic. There are still two months of racing essentially to get into the Chase. We have fast race cars and if we do our part we don’t need any help. If we do our part we don’t even need any luck. We just need to do our jobs and I feel like we have got the team to do just that.”
It appeared that five-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson grabbed the outside of Row 1 with a lap of 135.902 mph in his No 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. But during post-qualifying inspection, Johnson’s car was too low and his time was disallowed. He will start 43rd on Sunday,
Starting second will be Kurt Busch, who ran 135.810 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet. On Row 2 will be Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch, with Jeff Gordon on the inside of Row 3, flanked by Carl Edwards. Danica Patrick will start 32nd.
SILLY SEASON — The worst kept secret in NASCAR became official Friday, when it was announced that Kevin Harvick and Budweiser would join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, when Harvick will drive the No. 4 SHR Chevrolet. Ryan Newman, who will leave SHR after this year, said Friday he has no idea where he’ll drive next year. And Kurt Busch, who has raised his stock dramatically with a great season with Furniture Row Racing, said he’s negotiating for next year but has made no decisions. For more on Silly Season, check out:
THANKS, BUT NO — After getting home from Daytona after Saturday night’s race, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon took his son Leo to Pocono Raceway Sunday to see the IZOD IndyCar race. From an entertainment standpoint, the Gordons had fun. But it didn’t make the man known as “Big Daddy” want to trade his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for a ride in a single-seater. Not at all, in fact.
“I want to be competitive in whatever it is I’m in and I know if I go run five or 10 laps, whether it be a rally car or an IndyCar or whatever car, that’s not enough for me to go be competitive. And if I can’t go be competitive in it then I usually don’t have fun,” said Gordon. “That’s just my personality. It’s not about just sliding the car sideways or feeling it stick at 220 mph, it’s about can I be as fast as somebody else and so no, honestly that didn’t persuade me to want to go do it.”
Then there was watching James Hinchcliffe wad up his car in Turn 1 on Lap 1 at Pocono.
“I was speaking to Hinchcliffe and then moments later he’s spinning back into the wall,” said Gordon. “The (car) barely flinched and he couldn’t catch it and I felt bad for him and also thought I had no desire to go get in that car.”
HOME AWAY FROM HOME — Loudon, N.H., site of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, is about 450 miles give or take from Martin Truex Jr.’s hometown of Mayetta, N.J. But Truex, one of several drivers in contention to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, considers NHMS his home track.
“Pocono and Dover are closer than here,” Truex said Friday. “This place is definitely because I’ve been coming here so long. That’s just the way it is even though it’s not the closest track to my home. It’s the one I’ve had the most history at, the one I’ve raced the most on, the one I’ve been coming to the longest, so you could definitely consider it a home track for sure.”
WEEPERS — Qualifying for the Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race was delayed briefly by “weepers” in Turn 4 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A weeper is water that leaks upward through the track surface, caused by heavy saturated ground that has had a lot of recent rain.
“There’s apparently a river flowing in Turn 4,” said Clint Bowyer, the first of 43 drivers to qualify Friday afternoon. Bowyer was understandably dismayed at going out first. He wound up 20th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. went through the water but still took the provisional pole midway through qualifying, before sliding back to third. “I should have ran around it (the water) but I was just a little lower than I wanted,” Earnhardt said.
ON THE POINT — NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Regan Smith led both of Friday’s practice sessions for Saturday’s CNBC Prime The Profit 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Smith comes into the 17th race of the season leading Sam Hornish Jr. by 6 points and Elliott Sadler by 14. Smith’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet turned a fast lap of 129.860 miles per hour during the final Happy Hour round of practice.