Shortly after Team Penske earned a 1-2-3 sweep in the starting lineup for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Belle Isle, the same Penske organization earned a front row sweep in the three round NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at the Pocono Raceway on Friday afternoon.
Yes, it was a banner day for the storied organization across both forms of major motorsports.
Brad Keselowski topped his Penske teammate Joey Logano in the closing seconds of the third and final round at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track to earn his first pole of the season and 12 of his Sprint Cup career.
“I don’t think of us as a team that is a qualifying-focused team,” Keselowski said after winning his first pole of his career at Pocono. “In general, we work on things that pay off in the race and not qualifying. So when we have speed in qualifying, that’s usually a sign of how strong we are in race trim.
“Of course, I can’t confirm that today, because I didn’t get any race trim practice (because of inclement weather). But I would say that’s some of our tendency.”
This pole gives Keselowski confidence for the race on Sunday, as the last nine times he’s qualified on the pole he’s finished in the top 10. In fact, seven of those nine starts from the pole he came home with a fourth place effort or better with two victories to his credit.
If he’s going to win though, he’s going to have to top his teammate who for the second straight race led the top two rounds of qualifying only to be outdone in the third round.
Today, Logano said he lost the opportunity at the pole in Turn 1.
“I was trying to get a little bit more in that last round, which we all did,” Logano said. “I just hit the track a little bit with the splitter, and it bounced me up the race track about a lane, and I ended up running a lane up all the way through that corner.
“I know that’s every bit of a tenth (of a second). I’m sure when I go back on TV or compare laps, the data together with Brad’s, I’m sure that’s where it all is. I felt like (Turns) 2 and 3 were really good. I felt like we made up something, but I was surprised it was even as fast as it was. That just shows the speed in the car.”
Matt Kenseth (181.316 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (181.192 mph) and Carl Edwards (180.759 mph). Tony Stewart will start sixth and Jimmie Johnson seventh. Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who advanced to the final round of a non-restrictor-plate knockout qualifying session for the first time this season, claimed the eighth spot on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 Starting Lineup:
Row 1: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano
Row 2: Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick
Row 3: Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart
Row 4: Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Row 5: Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin
Row 6: Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch
Row 7: Chase Elliott R, Ryan Blaney R
Row 8: Greg Biffle, Aric Almirola
Row 9: Martin Truex Jr. Chris Buescher R
Row 10: Austin Dillon, Paul Menard
Row 11: Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman
Row 12: Clint Bowyer, Trevor Bayne
Row 13: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jamie McMurray
Row 14: Matt DiBenedetto, Ty Dillon R
Row 15: Casey Mears, Brian Scott R
Row 16: Landon Cassill, A.J. Allmendinger
Row 17: Danica Patrick, David Ragan
Row 18: Regan Smith, Michael Annett
Row 19: Cole Whitt, Josh Wise
Row 20: Jeb Burton R, Reed Sorenson