February 28, 2014

Brad Keselowski wins first pole under new knockout qualifying

Brad Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano qualifies second for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Here’s what Sprint Cup drivers learned in their first experience Friday with “knockout” qualifying:

If NASCAR doesn’t find an alternative to cars moseying around the track to cool engines, “knockout” might take on a whole different meaning.

“When someone is going 100 miles (per hour) slower, closing speed is really scary,” said Joey Logano, who qualified second for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500. “I think they have to do something about that.”

Logano will share the front row with Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, who won the first pole under this format. Keselowski ran a best speed of 139.384 mph. Keselowski went out early in the initial 30-minute session that narrowed the pole competition to a dozen drivers.

“It’s a lot more nerve-wracking,” Keselowski said of the new format. “As a rule, if it’s more nerve-wracking for drivers, a lot more fun for fans. I like it because it fits my style.”

Logano was speaking for many concerning the slower traffic in qualifying. He noted the teams already have cool-down units that could be used along pit road and avoid the slow-traffic fanning process teams tried Friday.

However, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president for competition, said they won’t immediately tweak the rules and that some drivers argue against those cool-down units in qualifying.

“Running around untaped really didn’t cool the engines down,” Pemberton said, adding that NASCAR would prefer not to give teams latitude to raise hoods during qualifying. That would be necessary with the current cool-down technology.

Pemberton said NASCAR understands this format could be a work-in-progress.

“We’ve got a really good dialogue with our competitors,” Pemberton said. “We have open conversations all the time. It’s our job to weigh” all the factors.

While some drivers anticipated the slow-go fanning laps, others were taken aback.

“I didn’t know everybody would coast and try to cool their engines. It got kind of sketchy,” said Kyle Larson, who qualified eighth.

Added Jamie McMurray, who qualified third, “NASCAR has to look at letting us cool the engines down on pit road. It’s hard to tell if someone is coming in Turn 1. … I’m sure everyone would have the same opinion as me.”

Some drivers thought Friday’s rules interpretation ran counter to putting on the best show.

“If they’d let you cool the engines down, you could go full grille tape,” McMurray said.

“More excitement, more hot laps,” Logano said.

The Profit on CNBC 500

Friday qualifying/Sunday lineup

At Phoenix International Raceway

St No. Driver Car Speed
1 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 139.384
2 22 Joey Logano Ford 139.265
3 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 138.969
4 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 138.350
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 138.344
6 16 Greg Biffle Ford 138.339
7 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 138.318
8 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 138.318
9 43 Aric Almirola Ford 138.281
10 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 138.047
11 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 137.889
12 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 137.315
13 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 137.815
14 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 137.810
15 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 137.794
16 55 Brian Vickers Toyota 137.788
17 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 137.741
18 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet 137.588
19 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 137.546
20 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 137.483
21 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford 137.473
22 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 137.347
23 99 Carl Edwards Ford 137.216
24 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 137.200
25 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet 137.179
26 95 Michael McDowell Ford 137.065
27 78 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet 136.903
28 38 David Gilliland Ford 136.867
29 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 136.794
30 34 David Ragan Ford 136.789
31 26 Cole Whitt Toyota 136.726
32 33 Brian Scott Chevrolet 136.721
33 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 136.545
34 83 Ryan Truex Toyota 135.875
35 23 Alex Bowman Toyota 135.614
36 30 Parker Kligerman Toyota 135.384
37 35 Blake Koch Ford Points
38 66 Joe Nemechek Toyota Points
39 36 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Points
40 32 Travis Kvapil Ford Points
41 7 Michael Annett Chevrolet Points
42 87 Morgan Shepherd Toyota Points
43 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet Points
Failed to qualify
44 98 Josh Wise Chevrolet 135.287
45 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 135.115
46 77 Dave Blaney Ford 134.238

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