KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Brad Keselowski won the pole for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway, though he was quick to acknowledge it’s where he finishes in the crucial Chase race that matters.
Keselowski is firmly in the middle of the pack heading into second of three races in this round, and a victory would give him an automatic berth in the eight-driver elimination round.
That would take the pressure off a good run next week at unpredictable Talladega.
“It’s been a really good day, but of course there’s a long ways to go,” said Keselowski, who was also fastest in Friday’s practice. “We need a really good finish, is what we need.”
Keselowski turned a lap at 195.503 mph on Friday to beat out 10 other Chase drivers in the final round of qualifying. But because his Penske Racing team has accumulated four warnings, he did not receive the pit stall selection that typically goes to the fastest qualifier.
Whether that comes back to haunt him will be seen on Sunday.
“I guess it’s like getting a nice cheesecake with no toppings. I still like cheesecake,” Keselowski said. “We’ll make the most of it. It is nice to be fast this week. We weren’t anywhere near as fast as we wanted to be at Charlotte, which was frustrating.”
Carl Edwards will start alongside Keselowski after his lap of 195.454 mph. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. were next, all still in the Chase.
“These are bittersweet because it’s like you know you left a little bit out there, but it’s still a great lap for us,” Edwards said. “Somebody said there was something with the 2 and they lose a pit pick for some reason, so really we’ll get that first pit stall, which will be huge for Sunday. That’s a gift and we’ll take it.”
Ryan Blaney was the fastest among the non-title contenders in eighth. He was followed by Chase drivers Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, whose disastrous performance last week at Charlotte dropped him to last among the 12 drivers in this round of the playoffs.
“I was really encouraged after practice,” Kenseth said. “We had a really good feel and pretty good speed on our mock-up run, just couldn’t get the balance in qualifying. We just couldn’t get it. It was a good day for us, but we certainly want to be better than 11th.”
The only Chase drivers who did not make the final round of qualifying were Joey Logano, who will start 14th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified 15th.
That’s no big deal to Logano. He won at Charlotte to guarantee his spot in the next round of the Chase, so he spent Friday’s practice in race trim rather than a qualifying setup.
“It feels great. Everyone else is stressed out in the garage except us right now,” he said. “That’s something to be proud of. That stress will wear a lot of teams out.”
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