Team Penske 1-2 again in knockout qualifying
Las Vegas, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - Team Penske has figured out NASCAR's new knockout-style of qualifying in the Sprint Cup Series quite well.
For the second consecutive week, Penske swept the front starting row, but this time it was Joey Logano who won the pole and Brad Keselowski qualifying second.
On Friday, Logano grabbed the pole for Sunday's Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He set a new track qualifying record at this 1.5-mile racetrack with a lap at 193.278 mph.
During the third round in qualifying, Keselowski held the provisional pole with a lap at 193.099 mph until Logano made his run. Both drivers made only one lap each during the final segment.
"We're all still learning what the best strategy is and when to go, when to cool your motor off and when to do all of this stuff," Logano said. "We have an idea what we want to do. We've studied as much as we can. But every time we do this we've learned something that we might want to do differently next time."
Logano claimed his eighth career pole in Sprint Cup, including his first at Las Vegas.
"To have a Penske front row for two weekends at two completely different racetracks just goes to show how hard these guys have been working," he said. "When you work hard the results come."
Last week at Phoenix International Raceway, Keselowski won the inaugural knockout qualifying in Sprint Cup after setting a new track record there. Logano finished second. Phoenix, a 1-mile oval, featured just two rounds in qualifying. Tracks that are 1.25 miles or more in length have three rounds.
Kasey Kahne held the previous track qualifying record at Las Vegas with a lap at 190.456 mph set in 2012. Twenty-four drivers in Friday's qualifying surpassed Kahne's speed from two years ago.
NASCAR has a new rules package for the intermediate tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. All teams entered for Las Vegas participated in a four-hour test session here on Thursday, familiarizing themselves with the 2014 package.
"When you have fast cars, it makes your life a lot easier, and Team Penske has done a great job of finding the speed in qualifying trim," Keselowski said. "We need a little bit more in race trim. I think we saw that last weekend at Phoenix and a little bit in testing here at Las Vegas. But the qualifying trim, I think we've got our cars really refined well for this package."
Clint Bowyer qualified third, followed by rookie Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion. Johnson holds the record for most wins at this track with four.
Those finishing sixth through 12th in round three were: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr.
Other notable drivers and their starting positions include: Kahne (13th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (14th), Jeff Gordon (15th), Kevin Harvick (16th), Kyle Busch (20th), Danica Patrick (22nd), Kurt Busch (23rd), Tony Stewart (24th) and Matt Kenseth (29th).
Kenseth won last year's race at Las Vegas, which came in just his third start with Joe Gibbs Racing.
"I was depressed last week not making [the top] 12, and this week, I couldn't make 24," Kenseth said. "It was really bad. I got to figure out what I'm doing wrong. I have to try to help these guys [No. 20 team] a little bit more. Not sure what went wrong. We worked on qualifying pretty hard today - all day really. We were off a little bit, but I didn't think we were off nearly this far."
Kahne missed the cut into round three by only 0.002 seconds.
Blake Koch, Landon Cassill, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek and J.J. Yeley failed to qualify for Sunday's race, which is scheduled to start shortly after 3 p.m. ET.
03/07 22:20:49 ET