Brad Keselowski

BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Team Penske Ford has the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position in the new format, with a record-breaking lap of 139.383 mph/25.828 seconds. His Penske teammate, JOEY LOGANO/No.22 was second fastest. Both broke the existing track record of 139.222 mph set last year by JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet. This was the fourth pole position for Keselowski, whose top time was 139.384 mph/25.828 seconds.

Joey Logano

The Penske drivers were first out of the chute and held onto the top spots throughout both qualifying sessions in the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series format at Phoenix International Raceway; with Keselowski jumping his teammate for the top spot in the second/final ten-minute session which set the top twelve starting positions for Sunday’s race. Logano had held onto first place throughout the first half-hour session.

Keselowski said he went out first because he’s easily bored and didn’t want to wait.

“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. 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.

“A lot of things are coming together for me this year, professional and personal. This new format really suits my driving style. It’s a lot more nerve-racking, which means a lot more fun for fans and partners. Curious about what feedback we’ll get.” And there weren’t many surprises for him in qualifying. Nothing stuck out to him.

Logano said “Man, you win the first segment and Brad was second and we had him by a tenth that first run so I was feeling pretty good. After we made our lap we went faster in the first run and I felt good about it. I watched Brad’s first lap and he was able to pick it up the second lap. The third run I just couldn’t get going any faster, so that was tough.”

The race title is a mouthful: 10th Annual The Profit on CNBC 500 race presented by Small Business Fueling America.

Dale Earnhardt
Greg Biffle
Kyle Busch
Kyle Larson

Third through twelfth were: JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Chevrolet, JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet, DALE EARNHARDT Jr/No.88 Chevrolet, GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford, KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota, ARIC ALMIROLA/No.43 Ford, top Rookie KYLE LARSON/No.42 Chevrolet, KURT BUSCH/No.41 Chevrolet, KASEY KAHNE/No.5 Chevrolet, and DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota.

Forty-six drivers entered, so after the first half-hour round of qualifying, it was known which three drivers wouldn’t make the field: JOSH WISE/No.98 Chevrolet, LANDON CASSIL/No.40 Chevrolet, and DAVE BLANEY/No.77 Ford.

There was concern among some of the interviewed drivers about the cars not being able to cool down, and comments that hopefully NASCAR would do some tweaking to the format. There was a lot of full tape, driving slow on track, coming in and pulling off tape, etc.

ROBIN PEMBERTON, NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development, visited the Media Center after qualifying to answer questions brought on by the media during qualifying. “There’s a whole menu of things out there we’re working on. We’ll continue to solicit feedback. It’s important for us to work together with the teams. We’re not really considering a minimum speed on track. It would just be adding to the problems out there.

“Overall, the new format was pleasing to NASCAR on several fronts. The overall package in the garage area went well; they’ll get better. The inspectors worked hard to get the cars through. Next week at Las Vegas with three sessions will be a little bit different. I’m not going to grade it today, but we’re pretty happy.

“We’ve got a really good dialogue with our competitors. We do sit down and talk pretty regular, we text back and forth, and do different things. They understand. it’s our job to evaluate and balance everything out.

Keselowski’s opinion on the new format: “This is the interesting thing about this format; you can’t make a template and say this is what you will see every week. Small variables have a tremendous affect on what strategy will be more successful. For this particular track with the sun setting as it was and the hard tire compounds, it is one specific format that was successful that will most likely not be at Vegas. That is a bigger track with a different tire compound and I think the sun does set while we are there qualifying. There are all kinds of small variables and it just takes one of them to change the successful strategy it will take. That is interesting to see how it will work out. At the end of the day, I think nine times out of 10 you will see the fast cars still at the front. But it’s way too early to draw conclusions.”

Despite the mostly cloudy skies, the sun came out just enough to get in the eyes of the drivers – first on the front stretch, and then on the back stretch. The temperature was 81 degrees F for the first qualifying and rose to 82F for the second round. The breeze started out enough to flutter, but dropped to a whisper for the last session.

FOX Sports TV ran behind the actual session – so far behind the Cup cars were all being pushed back to their garages while TV was getting ready for the second qualifying session. Very confusing, if not laughable. And which commentator got the prize for the most usage of the word “knockout” or “bubble” in qualifying?

Qualifying line up