CLICK: Full qualifying results
Brad Keselowski has claimed his third pole position fo the season and will start Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway alongside his Penske team mate Joey Logano.
Keselowski recorded a best time of 28.603s (188.791mph) at the 1.5 mile asphalt track, a new track qualifying record that put him a full quarter of a second faster than Logano. It's his sixth career Cup pole in 178 starts, and the first time that he has captured pole at Kentucky in four attempts.
"We're right where we want to be, starting first is a great start - but it's just that it's just a start," pointed out Keselowski. "You still have to execute a race and by no means a guarantee of a win, so we'll want to go out there and earn that Saturday and even tonight.
"But we're right where we want to be in that sense, so we'll keep pushing forward and I'm just taking a second to reflect on the efforts of our team and how proud I am of that and without them we couldn't be here," he added. "So I think it's good. I'm really, really pleased and very, very excited for both races tonight and tomorrow."
"Brad found some magic there the last run and found a couple tenths on me, but that was a really good lap we ran for sure," contributed Logano. "The #2 car gets faster every single session and they do that consistently. For the #22 car we're faster to get going and then we don't pick up as much and we always feel like we can get better as a team.
"We lean on each other a lot and when your teammate is doing a really good job qualifying and racing, it's easier to lean on him and see what they're doing and learn from each other," he pointed out.
Penske have been the consistent masters of the new elimination-style qualifying since it was introduced at the start of the season following the Daytona 500, especially at intermediate distance tracks like Kentucky. However, Logano wasn't taking the success for granted and said that he felt the competition was inching nearer every week.
"We've qualified well and made the final session at every race track besides Talladega, so we're still proud that we've been able to do that at a lot of different types of race tracks," Logano agreed. "[But] everyone's cars are getting better and I think everyone is getting closer and the field is getting closer."
Behind the Penske lock-out, Jeff Gordon will start on the second row alongside Denny Hamlin, while Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson will start the Quaker State 400 from fifth and sixth place respectively.
"You never want to be satisfied unless you are on the pole or in Victory Lane, but this sort of feels like a victory for me because that first run was not pretty," confessed a relieved Gordon. "That is a great place to start this race.
"It was so crazy we thought it was going to rain and then it didn't," he added, referring to the uncertain weather conditions that at one point seemed set to rain out the session. "I don't know, the car just didn't do what I wanted it to do.
"That final lap there, I really got through one and two good. I said, 'Okay don't mess up three and four.' I got down into three got it turned just the way I wanted to got back in the gas and the front end just did not quite stick for me. I don't know how far off of those guys we were, but solid.
Ryan Newman joins Jamie McMurray on row four just ahead of an all-Stewart-Haas Racing row five consisting of Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick. Rounding out the drivers who made it through to the final elimination round of Friday night's qualifying session were Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.
Tony Stewart narrowly failed to make it through to round three by just 0.007s and will start from 13th place alongside Matt Kenseth. AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon line up behind them, just ahead of Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch on row 9.
"I'm okay with it," summed up Allmendinger. "I think the first run we were so tight we tightened up from practice when it was really loose. I probably over drove it just a little bit so that put us right on the edge of making it into the second group. So we made one more run, the car was a lot better, still too tight overall throughout all of qualifying, but I think that second run on tyres probably hurt us a little bit.
"The third run I was proud of the guys they kept making the car a little bit better each time, but I think I hurt the right-front too much," he admitted. "That was all I had. I was pleased with the lap. I don't think I could have got much more out of it.”
"The car drove really good, just need some more speed," summed up Dillon of his qualifying. "The car is driving good, that is the good thing. I think we should be fine tomorrow night. The car has been decent since we've been here and long run speed is good. Didn't have an issue right there as far as drive so I'm looking forward to tomorrow night."
All 24 drivers who advanced to the ten-minute second round did so by breaking the old track qualifying record of 183.636mph, set last year by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt himself did not manage to make it through and will start from 29th place; his Hendrick Motorsport team mate Jimmie Johnson also missed out and will start Saturday night's race from 25th position.
"Race-trim-wise, I think we're in good shape," Johnson insisted. "We made a qualifying run at the end of practice and went slower than our race run!
"We didn't get the lap that we needed out there and didn't transfer," he sighed. "But I feel actually decent about our car in race trim. We put up a great two runs in the final practice session. We just couldn't get out of our own way in Q-trim."
"We've been fighting the car all day and haven't had any gains," was Earnhardt's contrasting downbeat analysis of his day. "We haven't been able to figure out what we need to do, but we just haven't had good speed. The car is rough. It's just really bouncing all the way down the straightaway all the way through the corners. We're having a real rough go of it. The car is just way too rough and has way too much movement and it's hard to control it that way."
Everyone qualified for the race, as there are only 42 entries this weekend for Kentucky making it the first time that a NASCAR Sprint Cup event has had less than a full 43-car field for a race since New Hampshire in the wake of the World Trade Center attack in 2001. Late withdrawals by Xxxtreme and Humphrey Racing of their entries for JJ Yeley and Dave Blaney helped precipitate the shortfall this weekend.
Full qualifying results