Keselowski sweeps to Sprint Cup pole for Quaker State 400

It was a big day of qualifying for Brad Keselowski at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, where he won the pole for Friday's Nationwide Series race and then captured the pole for Saturday night's Sprint Cup event.

Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

The Penske boys are at it again.

Brad Keselowski blistered the field with a track record lap of 188.791 miles per hour to win the pole for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano clocked in right behind at 187.175 mph, good enough for second place and a Team Penske sweep of the front row.

For Keselowski, the 2012 champion, it was his third pole of the season, tying him with Kevin Harvick for the most this season, and the sixth of his career in 178 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. Earlier in the day, Keselowski also won the pole for Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

"We’re right where we want to be, starting first is a great start but it’s just that it’s just a start," said Keselowski. "You still have to execute a race and by no means a guarantee of a win, so we’ll want to go out there and earn that Saturday and even tonight. But we’re right where we want to be in that sense, so we’ll keep pushing forward and I’m just taking a second to reflect on the efforts of our team and how proud I am of that and without them we couldn’t be here."

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In 17 Sprint Cup races so far in 2014, Keselowski has qualified on the front row nine times. With Logano on Row 1 five times, the Penske Fords rate as the unquestioned class of the field on Fridays.

"We’ve had some speed here in practice and felt like we were a top five car in practice and I feel like we’ll be better than that in the race, and then obviously in qualifying we weren’t dominant in qualifying practice, but in qualifying here today we had a good car," said Logano. "Brad found some magic there the last run and found a couple tenths on me, but that was a really good lap we ran for sure."

Jeff Gordon qualified third in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, with Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick completing the top five. Harvick’s teammate Danica Patrick was 10th, the fifth time she’s qualified in the top 10 this season.

Gordon struggled early but quickly found the handle. "Oh my gosh you never want to be satisfied unless you are on the pole or in Victory Lane, but this sort of feels like a victory for me," he said.

Hamlin, the fourth-place qualifier, was also encouraged by his performance. "We’re getting better," said Hamlin. "Fourth is a little better than I expected to qualify, but we think we have a top-five car for the race. Looking forward to tomorrow."

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A total of 23 drivers broke the old track record of 183.636 mph, set last year by Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was the 12th time this season that a track qualifying record was broken.

There were three rounds of qualifying, with hot, steamy temperatures at the track and rain in the area. In the first round, drivers initially stayed on pit road, waiting for cloud cover to reach the track and increase grip and, in turn, increase speeds. David Stremme was the only driver to go out in the first six minutes of Round 1.

The big surprise was that Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson (25th ) and Earnhardt (29th) failed to advance out of  Round 1.

"We couldn’t get out of our own way in Q-trim," Johnson said of his qualifying run. It was only the third time this season that Johnson failed to get out of Round 1.

Earnhardt, meanwhile, said he was not surprised that he didn’t advance. "We were slow in practice and have been fighting the car all day," said Earnhardt. "… We had a really rough go of it."

 

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