For the second consecutive race weekend, no one was able to knock off Team Penske in knockout qualifying.
Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski claimed the front row for the second race in a row, this week with Logano starting from the pole in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Last weekend at Phoenix, Keselowski started from the pole with Logano starting alongside. The pole is the eighth of Logano’s Sprint Cup Series career.
“I told him we’re 1-1 now,” Logano said. “He’s got one and I’ve got one. It’s a privilege to drive these cars. It’s so much fun.”
Friday’s knock out qualifying session was the first this season on a superspeedway and utilizing three elimination rounds to settle on the starting lineup.
Brian Vickers posted the fastest lap in the first round, Logano was fastest in the second round and again in the third round, when he set the track qualifying record with an average lap speed at 193.278 mph.
The previous record of 190.456 mph was set by Kasey Kahne in March 2012.
“We’re all still learning what the best strategy is, when to go, when to cool your motor off, when to do all this stuff,” Logano said of the new qualifying format. “We have an idea what we want to do. We’ve studied it as much as we can.
“All you can do is find the biggest hole that you can (between other cars) and make sure you lay down the best lap you can. That’s what I get paid to do.”
Clint Bowyer will line up third, Austin Dillon fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth.
Keselowski credited Team Penske’s quick grasp on NASCAR’s new qualifying format to a relatively simple concept: fast cars.
“When you’ve got fast cars it makes your life a lot easier, and Team Penske has done a great job of finding the speed in qualifying trim,” he said. “We need a little bit more in race trim.
“I think we saw last weekend in Phoenix and a little bit on the first day of testing here in Vegas. I’m proud of where we’re at.”
Once again there were some close calls on the track during the qualifying rounds with cars running at full speed nearly missing cars running well off the pace while attempting to cool their engines between runs.
Vickers, who was fastest in the first session, found the experience particularly troublesome Friday.
“The biggest thing that disturbed me about the whole deal are the policies on qualifying,” he said. “We don’t have impact data on 170-180 mph differential impacts. If I hit someone with those speed discrepancies that’s going to be really bad for everyone.
“Unquestionably it’s more exciting for the fans. It’s fun, interesting, but there are some things that have to take place. That’s the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done in a race car.”
Bowyer, Vickers’ teammate at Michael Waltrip Racing, found the session and the outcome exciting, but also wondered about the speed differential of cars on the track.
“Our normal deal is to be scared once a weekend – three times is a lot to ask out of us,” Bowyer said of the qualifying format.
“I really hope that NASCAR looks at that – that first (round) everybody’s out there going fast, you’re 200 miles an hour out there and cars that aren’t even running (laps) are running about 40 (mph).”
Five drivers failed to make the 43-car field: Blake Koch, Landon Cassill, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek and J.J. Yeley.
Kobalt 400 Lineup
Friday qualifying; Sunday lineup
At Las Vegas Motor Speedway
|6||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||192.596|
|12||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevy||191.510|
|14||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevy||191.618|
|Failed to qualify|