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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)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, receives a lobster in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Both Johnson and Harvick are in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS finished in fourth place and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS finished in fifth place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS finished in third place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS finished in 2nd place and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished in 26th place Sunday, September 21, 2014 in the Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon is in the Chase which continues in next week`s Challenger 16 race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
David Ragan, driver of the #34 Taco Bell Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, are seen on the track after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, loses control of the car after making contact with Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, drives with damage to his car after crashing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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