Brad Keselowski saved the best for last and defeated Kevin Harvick to claim the Busch Pole for Sunday’s Consumer’s Energy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway.
The 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion was the final driver in the 38-car field to make a qualifying run for Sunday’s 400 lap event.
Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick had just eclipsed the 190mph barrier with a 37.877-second lap that knocked Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron off the top spot.
Keselowski responded just a little better and bested Harvick by .076s with a lap of 37.801s averaging 190.471mph. The pole is the 16th of his career and second at the 2.0-mile oval. The Rochester Hills, Michigan native is still chasing his first win at MIS.
“We were really fast in practice, and then it started picking up towards the end of qualifying,” said Keselowski. “We picked up just enough to get our second pole here – hopefully, we can convert it to a win.”
Teams have the luxury of two practice session tomorrow in preparation from Sunday’s event. That has made the 30-time MENCS race winner cognizant about fine-tuning the car for Sunday.
“This is the last non-impound race that we have on this rules package,” he continued. “There’s a lot you can do to optimize the car for today that maybe won’t carry over to tomorrow to Sunday. Still good to be starting first and I think we’ve got a lot of knobs to get her tuned in for the race.”
Harvick completed a Ford lockout of the front row ahead of an all Hendrick Motorsports second row led by Bryon in third and Alex Bowman in fourth. Clint Bowyer rounded out top five in fifth while Watkins Glen winner Chase Elliott wound up sixth ahead of three-time polesitter Austin Dillon in seventh.
The remainder of the Team Penske squad filled out the top ten led by Ryan Blaney in eighth and June Michigan winner Joey Logano slotting in ninth. Paul Menard completed the top 10 starters in his Team Penske affiliated Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
The Joe Gibbs Racing stable struggled mightily in the session with Denny Hamlin ending up the quickest of the squad in 16th place. Two of his teammates ended up directly behind him with Martin Truex, Jr and Erik Jones taking the 17th and 18th starting spots respectively.
Their points leading compatriot Kyle Busch was significantly off their pace and only mustered the 24th quickest time.