Gary B. Graves
SPARTA, Ky.: Brad Keselowski couldn’t stick around long to discuss his track-record pole speed for tonight’s Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
After all, he had to jump in another Ford he drove to the pole for Friday night’s Nationwide Series race just hours before.
It was that kind of the day for the 2012 NASCAR champion, who had a lap at 188.791 mph the third knockout qualifying segment to take the pole for the 400-mile race. Keselowski earned his third pole this season and the sixth of his career.
“I thought we were all going to be a lot slower, so I was a little bit surprised by the speeds that were ran,” Keselowski said. “But [crew chief] Paul [Wolfe] did a good job working on and adjusting the car and getting it to where I wanted it and they hit what I wanted.”
A day in which 23 drivers broke Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s year-old mark of 183.636 mph in the first round of qualifying alone ended with the 2012 race winner shattering it by more than 5 mph. Keselowski overtook Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano, who turned a final lap of 187.175 after blasting the record in each of the first two rounds.
Logano’s effort wouldn’t have been shocking had he held on, considering he won the Las Vegas pole and has started 13 of 16 races in the top 10, one more than his teammate. In any event, Penske earned its third front-row sweep this season.
“I wouldn’t say we’re destroying them, I think a lot of it is in the cars, to be honest with you,” said Logano, a two-time winner this season. “I feel like our cars have just been fast.”
Points leader Jeff Gordon will start third in a Chevy, salvaging a session in which Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson (25th) and Earnhardt (29th) didn’t survive the first round while Kasey Kahne (20th) was knocked out in the second.
Denny Hamlin was fourth in a Toyota.
Kevin Harvick will start fifth alongside rookie Kyle Larson, whose 186.034 in a Chevy helped the manufacturer claim eight of the top 12 spots.
The first round was interesting as Johnson and Earnhardt failed to get up to speed. Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy just missed the first cut at 183.661, four spots ahead of Earnhardt’s 182.778.
“We didn’t get the lap that we needed out there and didn’t transfer,” Johnson said. “But I feel actually decent about our car in race trim.”
The second round claimed notables such as Tony Stewart, defending race champion Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.
Kevin Harvick passed Kyle Busch on the final restart and held off Brad Keselowski to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.
After failing to pass Busch on an earlier restart, Harvick succeeded with another chance on Lap 196. His Chevy gained enough space from Keselowski, who rallied from 17th following a pass-through penalty with 50 laps left to finish second in a Ford.
Before the pit road speeding penalty, Keselowski seemed headed for a second straight victory at the track in leading 138 laps.
Busch was third, and Paul Menard fourth.