Brad Keselowski cruises to the pole for Las Vegas Cup race

LAS VEGAS — Brad Keselowski won the pole for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in qualifying Friday evening at the 1.5-mile track.

Despite the fact that it was his first career pole in his ninth try at LVMS, it should come as no great surprise.

Keselowski was fast in Friday’s lone Cup practice and he’s the defending winner in this race. His pole-winning lap was clocked at 193.680 miles per hour.

“Somebody told me we hit 207 miles an hour (on the straightaway). That’s gettin’ it around this place,” said Keselowski, who earned his 13th career pole.

Martin Truex Jr., who was fastest in practice while Keselowski was second-fastest, flip-flopped with the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford in qualifying. He’ll start alongside Keselowski on the front row Sunday after qualifying second-fastest (193.458 mph).

“We had a really good day at the racetrack. We were fastest in practice and felt really good about qualifying. … All in all, to be off just a little bit and come up just short for the pole, it’s a good day,” Truex said.

Rounding out the top five were Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson. The rest of those who made the final round of qualifying ended up, in order, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, rookie Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, rookie Daniel Suarez and Chase Elliott.

Among the heavyweights who failed to make it out of Round 2 were Denny Hamlin, who ended up 15th, Jimmie Johnson (16th), Kurt Busch (17th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (18th) and Kevin Harvick (19th).

The biggest names to fail to escape even the first round included Danica Patrick (28th), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (29th) and Aric Almirola (30th), while the greatest drama in either of the opening two rounds involved a late first-round run by AJ Allmendinger that knocked his JTG Daugherty Racing teammate Chris Daugherty out of the mix.

Allmendinger ended up with the 23rd starting position, as he had little left for Round 2. Buescher, the last car knocked out in Round 1, will start just two spots behind in 25th.

Meanwhile, Keselowski was pumped about his first pole since at Dover last fall.

“I’m thankful to kind of keep the momentum rolling, coming off the win last week and now a great qualifying effort and locking ourselves into the (season-opening) Clash (exhibition race) for next year,” Keselowski said. “What a wave of momentum. It’s something we’re really proud of and hopefully we can keep it going with another win on Sunday.”