PIR Knockout Pole Belongs To Keselowski
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Team Penske appears to have figured out the new knockout qualifying system faster than everyone else in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano swept the front row for Sunday’s The Profit On CNBC 500 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway. Keselowski’s Alliance Truck Parts Ford was fastest at 139.384 mph, bettering Logano’s fast lap of 139.265 mph.
“I think you have to have a fast car, that’s the most important part either way,” said Keselowski, who is now the track record holder in Sprint Cup competition at PIR. “Team Penske 1-2, that is a heck of a way to start what we think of as the regular season here at Phoenix.”
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion admitted that he didn’t think he had enough to beat his teammate Logano in the final session, but he somehow ended up with the pole.
“I didn’t think I had the lap in me,” Keselowski said. “These guys (crew) gave me a heck of a car. They must have carried me.”
The pole is Keselowski’s fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Jamie McMurray qualified third in his Chevrolet, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Completing the top-12 from the final qualifying session were Greg Biffle, rookie Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin.
Only the top-12 drivers advanced from the first 30-minute session to the final 10-minute session of qualifying.
In the first 30-minute session of knockout qualifying, Logano led the way by getting around PIR in 25.86 seconds. Keselowski was second, previewing what was to come in the final session.
Most teams, once they made their initial qualifying attempts, returned to pit road to pull tape off the front grill. The cars would then return to the track and circle slowly in order to cool down the engines incase teams wanted to make a second qualifying attempt during the first session.
That method of thinking paid off for a few drivers, including Earnhardt, McMurray and Hamlin. They all bumped their way into the top-12 in the final moments of the first session during their second qualifying attempts.
Several drivers stated that they hope NASCAR will consider changing the new knockout qualifying rules to allow teams to cool the engines in the cars on pit road during qualifying sessions.
Morgan Shepherd, 72, qualified 43rd in the No. 87 Toyota and will extend his own record for oldest driver to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Failing to qualify were Josh Wise, Landon Cassill and Dave Blaney.