Brad Keselowski picked up the fourth pole of his career by conquering NASCAR’s new pole format ahead of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway.
Running a solid best lap of 139.384 mph, the Penske Racing star beat out the rest of the field after two rounds in the new knockout stage. Drivers no longer go out one at a time during the pole, but rather have 30 minutes to run their best lap with the top 12 then pitted against each other in a second 10-minute session to determine the ultimate pole victor.
NASCAR officials kept a watchful eye on all drivers for fear of teams intentionally blocking opponents during laps to slow down times, but the first-inception of the knockout format went off without a hitch.
Keselowski ‘s Penske teammate Joey Logano racked up the second fastest time, followed by veteran Jamie McMurray to round out the front row. Defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will start for the No. 4 position, and last week’s Daytona 500-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be fifth.
Earnhardt Jr. put up a dominating performance at Daytona by leading for 54 laps, which was more than runner-up Denny Hamlin and third-place finisher Keselowski combined. Promptly following his first-ever win at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. sent out his first-ever tweet via social media Web site Twitter. The post of course included a picture of the 39-year-old standing beside his new trophy.
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Last year’s two winners in Phoenix were Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Fenway’s Carl Edwards. They’ll start Sunday at the No. 13 and No. 23 slots.
Johnson finished in the top three in both trips to Phoenix last season, despite only leading by two laps total.
Time: Sunday, 3 p.m. EST
TV Channel: FOX
5.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
21.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
27.Martin Truex Jr.