BROOKLYN, Mich. — Brad Keselowski was asked to pick one word to describe a lap at Michigan International Speedway.
“Fast,” the defending Sprint Cup champion said. “This is, to me, the fastest track we have – and it might be in speed, but it definitely is in feel.”
MIS is in its second year with a newly paved surface, and drivers are again making 200 mph laps look almost routine. Carl Edwards captured the pole after qualifying Friday with a lap of 202.452 mph.
That run came a year after Marcos Ambrose won the pole at MIS at 203.241 mph – the first time since 1987 the 200 mph mark was broken during qualifying for NASCAR’s top series.
“The new track is super fun to race on,” Edwards said. “The pavement seems like it has aged more in a year than a lot of new track surfaces have, and hopefully we can keep developing a Goodyear tire and keep making it softer and softer to where it becomes the old Michigan here in a year or two. I think that is going to be awesome.”
Edwards topped qualifying for the first time this season. He had the pole in May at Talladega as well, but that was because qualifying was rained out and the field was set by practice speeds. He’s second in the Sprint Cup standings.
Kurt Busch was second in qualifying, followed by Kasey Kahne. Points leader Jimmie Johnson was 17th, one spot behind Keselowski.
Edwards started second last weekend at Pocono, but finished 18th. Now, his No. 99 Ford looks capable of a big weekend.
“The engine is a big part of it, and today the engine group came through huge,” Edwards said. “You can’t hide a bad engine out there on that racetrack. That is a big racetrack where big power means something, and same thing with the aero program. We have to keep moving forward but that is cool. There is not a faster car in the place than our car today and that is a big deal.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won at MIS last June to snap a streak of 143 Cup races without a victory, qualified 12th.
Busch is coming off a seventh-place showing at Pocono – his second top-10 finish in the last three races. He’ll start in the top two Sunday for the fourth time this year.
“It’s just a good feeling – to be on the front row four times this year,” Busch said. “So we’re just going to keep rolling. To be second, that’s qualifying, now we’ve just got to step into the race, and that’s where we’ve got to close the deal.”
Thirteen drivers qualified with speeds of at least 200 mph, although nobody could eclipse the mark set by Ambrose.
“To come as close as Carl came today, Kurt was right there and then we were behind him <0x2014> to come as close as those guys did to the qualifying record, that shows how fast the car is here,” Kahne said. “The race, the speeds will be up for sure.”