Keselowski will start from the pole
Brad Keselowski will start Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 in an unfamiliar position, but he is hoping for a familiar result.
Keselowski, who won this race in 2012, will start from the pole after posting a track-record qualifying lap of 188.791 mph during Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Kentucky Speedway.
The pole is the sixth of Keselowski’s Sprint Cup career, third of the season and first at Kentucky.
“We’re right where we want to be – starting first. Now, we just need to execute the race,” Keselowski said. “This is huge boost for us.”
Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano, will start second, series points leader Jeff Gordon third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Kevin Harvick will start fifth.
Wallace to run Nationwide at Daytona: Darrell Wallace Jr. will make his second Nationwide Series start of the season when he drives the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in next weekend’s race at Daytona.
In his previous series start this season, Wallace qualified third at Talladega, Ala., but got caught up in accident.
“Superspeedways haven’t shown the best results for me so far,” he said, “but every time I’ve competed we have been super-fast and I know this time will be no different.”
Johnson, Earnhardt nominated for ESPYs: Hendrick Motorsports drivers Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been nominated for ESPYs – ESPN’s annual sports awards.
Johnson was nominated for best championship performance after winning his sixth Cup series title last season. Johnson and Earnhardt were nominated in the best driver category, which also includes IndyCar series drivers Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and NHRA Funny Car driver John Force.
Preseason testing scheduled: Cup series teams will test Jan. 15-16 at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the 2015 Daytona 500. The rain date is Jan. 17.
Busch’s truck too low: Kyle Busch’s winning No. 51 Toyota from Thursday night’s Truck series race failed postrace inspection when it was found to be too low on the front end. Any penalties will be announced next week.
Three things to watch
1. Matt Kenseth won this race a year ago – his fourth of the season at that time. Kenseth is still looking for his first win of the 2014 season.
2. Kentucky is one of four active tracks on which Jimmie Johnson has yet to win on in the Cup series.
3. Kenseth, Johnson, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon are the only drivers to have finished in the top 10 in all three Kentucky Cup races so far.
Observations• A lot is being made of the fact the Cup series race at Kentucky will have less than a 43-car car field for the first time since 2001. But in terms of quality vs. quantity, there isn’t much difference at all. I fail to see why it is so important Saturday night’s field won’t have a 43rd car entered that will likely not complete the race or may even start-and-park. Either option adds nothing to the quality of racing for fans at the track or watching on TV. I would much rather see smaller fields of more competitive cars than larger fields with only half the cars able to contend for the win.
• Earlier this week at a ceremony at the White House honoring his sixth Cup series championship, Jimmie Johnson was referred to by President Obama as “the Michael Jordan of NASCAR.” That’s probably as good an analogy as there is. Not only was Jordan one of the NBA’s best athletes, but he also amassed six championships and was an excellent ambassador of the sport. Johnson, whose career is far from over, has made as significant an impact in NASCAR.
• Kentucky Speedway has embraced its role as the “roughest track in NASCAR.” That’s all well and good – rough tracks tend to produce better racing. However, it may need a backup moniker should it be forced one day to repave.
Three picks for your fantasy racing team:
Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson