In the first-ever Sprint Cup Series Knockout Qualifying session, it’d be Brad Keselowski setting the quickest time to take the pole. Keselowski would set a brand new track record with a lap of 25.828 seconds.
“I didn’t think I had the lap in me but these guys gave me one heck of a car,” Keselowski said afterwards. “It must have carried me, man.”
Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano topped the speeds in the first round, though would not be able to top Keselowski’s lap as he qualified second.
“Man, after you win the first segment, you feel pretty good. I think I went faster the second run and then he just barely beat me,” Logano commented. “You just look at a cople one hundredths and you want to go out there again because you know where you lost it. its great to have a one-two Penske front row and it shows that the hard work is paying off.”
Jamie McMurray was third fastest, followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt Jr. won last week’s Daytona 500.
Greg Biffle qualified sixth, followed by Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch. Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin were the last two in the top 12 that made it to the second round.
All 46 cars entered participated in the first 30-minute qualifying session, with the 12 fastest advancing to the 10-minute final round.
Kevin Harvick, who got knocked out of hte top 12 by a hundreth of a second, will start 13th followed by Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman.
Teams had concerns as the qualifying session went on due to not being able to cool down the motors with the fans that they can attach to the front bumper.
“This is a huge change for us,” Doug Yates of Roush Yates Engines told Fox Sports. “Usually you line up and cool the water down and you heat the oil up as hot as you can get it and as thin of oil as you can get and run a couple laps and that is it. We know how the engines react to that scenario. This is all new. How many runs are you going to make? How hot will the oil get, which drives the water temperature and how do you get it cooled back down? There are a lot of factors here.”
Failing to qualify were Josh Wise, Dave Blaney and Landon Cassill.