Never Seen Such Speed
Keselowski Earns Pole for SYLVANIA 300
Twenty-six different drivers broke Kyle Busch's July track qualifying record. But by the end of the time trials, it was Brad Keselowski at the top. The hottest driver in NASCAR stayed red-hot, using cooler temperatures to set a new track qualifying record of 140.598 mph (27.090 seconds) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday - the 19th track record set this season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Keselowski, the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader, was joined by Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick, who qualified second and third respectively, as one of three drivers to exceed 140 mph for the first time ever at the 1.058 mile oval.
"Loudon's always been one of my favorite tracks, but this one is even more special given what we've been doing lately and so far in the Chase," said Keselowski, who has three poles in 11 career starts at NHMS. "We had this race circled before the Chase started … this track is kind of right in my wheelhouse right now."
This was the fifth pole and fourth track qualifying record for Keselowski, who won the Camping World RV Sales 301 at the Magic Mile in July. The No. 2 Miller Lite for Penske Racing will be looking for his third straight win in the Cup Series, having earned an automatic bid into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship with a win last week.
Denny Hamlin and three-time defending runner-up Kyle Busch round out the top five for Sunday's SYLVANIA 300 - the second race in the Challenger Round of the Chase - while Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, and Kyle Larson finish off the top-10.
"I thought we had a great chance to take the pole after my run, but Brad was just too fast," said McMurray, who has three top-10s in his last four Cup starts. "If you show up on Friday and you're struggling, it's almost impossible to get your car competitive. Flip that and if you qualify fast you can stay fast all weekend."
Harvick has been fast everywhere this year, including New Hampshire in July. And had it not been for running out of gas on a late green-white-checkered restart, it might have been Harvick in Sunoco Victory Lane.
"We need to keep being consistent and keep yourself in position to win," said Harvick. "It will eventually just come in and make up for the ones that you lost. We're in good position for Sunday, so now we just have to make the most of it."
Chase drivers not qualifying in the top 10 include Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11th), Jeff Gordon (13th), Kurt Busch (15th), Matt Kenseth (16th), Kasey Kahne (17th), Aric Almirola (21st), Greg Biffle (26th), and A.J. Allmendinger (27th).
Top drivers after the first round of qualifying were:
- Brad Keselowski
- Carl Edwards
- Kyle Larson
- Denny Hamlin
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brian Vickers
- Kevin Harvick
- Joey Logano
- Kyle Busch
- Jamie McMurray
- Ryan Newman
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Should Keselowski find Sunoco Victory Lane on Sunday, he will become the first driver to repeat at the speedway since Kurt Busch in 2004 and would end a streak of 13 different winners in the last 13 races at NHMS.
"Kind of a long story short, I feel like what we've been able to do today is incredible," said Keselowski. "The 2012 (championship-winning season) was such a blur for me, it felt like a dream. I feel like winning a second time it would feel real."