Kyle Larson had one more celebration left during his birthday week, setting a track record of 183.438 mph to win his first career Sprint Cup pole Friday at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
He broke the mark of 181.415 that Denny Hamlin set in June.
Larson, one of the top rookies in NASCAR, turned 22 on Thursday and wants to keep the party going with his first win Sunday. Larson could use a victory to secure a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, though he would make the 16-car field as it stands on points.
“I really think a win is coming soon, maybe before the Chase starts,” Larson said.
Joey Logano joined Larson on the front row. Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon completed the top five. Gordon followed his fifth Brickyard 400 win with another strong qualifying run.
Logano topped the first two rounds of qualifying and held the top spot until Larson bumped him in the third.
“I knew we had a shot at the pole after the second round,” Larson said. “I was nervous and I hit all three corners about as good as I could, so I was really excited about that.”
Chase Elliott is in the midst of one of the best rookie seasons in NASCAR Nationwide series history.
The race today at the Iowa Speedway in Newton could go a long way in determining whether Elliott ends such a promising year with a title.
Though Elliott has three wins in 19 races this season, his points lead has been reduced to just four heading into this weekend in Iowa. Elliott has finished outside the top five in four of his last five races. This week he learned that his crew chief, Greg Ives, is leaving to fill the same position on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Sprint Cup team in 2015.
As one of the rare stand-alone events on the Nationwide schedule, the annual August race in Iowa has often been a showcase for series regulars.
Brad Keselowski again will be the lone Sprint Cup driver in the field, and his runs on Iowa’s .875-mile track suggest that he’ll be the runaway favorite.
Keselowski has won twice in four Nationwide races here, including last year.
Regan Smith trails Elliott by four points, while Elliott Sadler is 11 back.
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