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Keselowski on Phoenix pole in Penske lock-out

Team Penske was firmly in control of qualifying in Phoenix with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano topping both sessions in the new-look elimination process.
Full qualifying and practice times from Friday

Adjusting to the first-ever outing for the new-look 'elimination process' qualifying format in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship proved no problem at all for Team Penske at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday.

Perhaps benefitting from its experience of a similar process used in the IndyCar Series, Penske quickly put Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano at the top of the timesheets in the first 30 minute round, and then repeated the feat in the shorter second round reserved for the top 12 cars.

Logano was fastest in the all-comers stage with a time of 25.864s (139.190mph), but he couldn't quite match Keselowski's subsequent 25.828s (139.384mph), a new track record for PIR set during the pole shootout round that fixed the front six rows for Sunday's 'The Profit on CNBC 500' event, the second race in the 2014 Cup season.

"We had a really fast car and there is some pride to be taken in being the first one to win a Sprint Cup pole in this format.," said Keselowski afterwards. "It was just a matter of executing on my end. We were able to do that. I didn't think I ran a good enough lap to be quite honest - when they told me the time, I said, 'Alright, I will take it.'"

With this being just his fourth pole position in 163 Cup starts, Keselowski said that he liked the new group qualifying format and that it definitely suited his style better than the old single-run, all-or-nothing time trials.

"I think qualifying has been one of those formats that I have struggled with," he admitted. "It just didn't suit my style in the past. This qualifying format really does suit my style a lot better. It gives me a chance to learn and apply which to me was instrumental to our success today and hopefully will be in how we go forward.

"It is interesting how a small format change like this can favor or disfavor teams and individuals and this is one that we have been able to take like a fish to water. Hopefully we will continue to do that," he added. "It is a lot more nerve-wracking and there is usually a pretty good rule of thumb that if it is a lot more nerve-wracking for drivers then it is usually a lot more fun for fans and partners and all those things.

"I am sure it will undergo a few adjustments along the way but it is very rewarding and a testament to my team and how fast of a car they gave me."

Logano eventually missed out on pole by just 0.022s but could take consolation in starting alongside his team mate on the front row on Sunday.

"I am the first loser - oh well," he signed. "Team Penske being one and two in the first time out doing this thing just goes to show all the hard work over the off-season. Phoenix, the first race track we go to where handling comes into play. All that hard work you get to show it off for the first time."

Keselowski and Logano both benefitted from setting their first round times early in the session while there was a little more cloud cover around cooling the track. The session was then briefly red-flagged for a spin by Justin Allgaier, and later runners weren't able to quite match their pace.

In addition, setting their times early meant that both Penske drivers could then park up on pit road and allow their cars to cool down without putting any more wear on their tyres, which teams aren't able to change during the qualifying session.

Proving their speed early might prove a special benefit for Penske this weekend, with forecasts for the area suggesting that much of Saturday's track activity which includes two further Cup practice sessions might be rained off - an irony given that PIR is located in the normally arid desert region around Avondale in Arizona.

Full qualifying and practice times from Friday



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Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on February 28, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Ford, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford, drive off pit road during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on February 28, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, celebrates setting the pole position in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on February 28, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, applies the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits along with the rest of the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 31, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, races to win with Kyle Larson, driver of the 42 Target Chevrolet SS beside him finishing in eighth place Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win with a burnout Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by his Hendrik Motor Sports teammates Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Toughbook Chevrolet SS (left), Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS (center) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS (right) after his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne joins Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase.  (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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