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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