LOUDON, N.H. — Brad Keselowski got a running start on most of the field at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway by testing there two weeks ago. On Friday, he used that running start to win the pole position for the Camping World RV Sales 301.
Newfound speed and a best-possible starting spot on a track where passing is difficult couldn’t have come at a better time for the defending Sprint Cup Series champion. With only eight races remaining in the regular season, Keselowski still is 13th in the point standings and looking for his first victory. That means if the Chase for the Championship started this Sunday, Keselowski wouldn’t be eligible to qualify either as a top-10 driver or a wild card entry.
“There is a sense of urgency but not a sense of panic,” Keselowski said. “I think there is a strong difference between the two.”
Keselowski ran a lap of 135.922 mph on the flat, one-mile oval. He was fastest in the only practice session leading up to time trials, and he easily backed it up during qualifying.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson originally qualified second at 135.902 mph, but his speed was disallowed because his car was too low during post-qualifying inspection.
The rest of the top 10 starters now will be: Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Keselowski knows there’s a fine line between winning and finishing 20th each week. A year ago things easily fell into place. This year’s been more of a struggle.
“On any given day at the race track, the win is defined differently based on what you have from a car and team to work with,” he said. “Sometimes the win is simple, you win the race. You take a fast car and find a way to get it up front and lead laps and win it.
“Sometimes the win might be having a 15th or 20th place car and finishing in the top-five. That might be the win. I know that is really hard for some people to see and there are very few people inside this sport that I think even know when that occurs when someone takes a 20th place car and finished fifth. It is just as important though as being able to take a winning car and win with it and it is just as impressive to me.”
INDYCAR: In Toronto, Canada, Dario Franchitti, fresh off his first podium finish of the year, carried that momentum into Toronto with a pole-winning run for the first of two races at Exhibition Place.
The four-time IndyCar Series champion was flawless in three rounds of Friday qualifying to coast to the top starting spot at Toronto, 1.75-mile street track where Franchitti has three career victories. It’s his fifth pole at Toronto and third on the season.
But his Target Chip Ganassi Racing team had to hustle all afternoon to repair damage to his No. 10 Honda incurred during a crashed in morning practice.
“I made a mistake in turn five there, took the right side off the car,” he said. “The guys had to work and repair the car. I was able to keep finding a little bit every lap. Felt really good about that.”