Penske Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger turned in respectful qualifying efforts for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 from the Kentucky Speedway. Despite Mother Nature disrupting qualifying, Keselowski put down a lap good for 8th place, and Allmendinger put his Dodge in the 16th place spot. Below is a breakdown of their efforts Friday evening.
Keselowski Qualifies 8th for Cup Race at Kentucky
SPARTA, Ky. – Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team qualified eighth for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Keselowski has qualified inside the top 10 in both NASCAR Cup Series races at Kentucky.
Keselowski toured the 1.5-mile oval in 29.966 seconds, or 180.204 miles per hour, in a backup car after a practice accident in the first practice session of the day. He will not have to move to the back at the start of the race. Penske Racing teammate AJ Allmendinger qualified 16th in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger.
“My team did a great job today fighting through some adversity and the Miller Lite Dodge was pretty fast,” said Keselowski. “For me to qualify (eighth), that’s pretty good. You know I’m not a very good qualifier. Obviously this is a great race car and can’t say how much I look forward to racing it here tomorrow night here under the lights at Kentucky.”
Allmendinger Starting 16th at Kentucky
SPARTA, Ky. – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger will start Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 from the 16th position. Dinger toured the bumpy 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in 30.160 seconds for an average speed of 179.045 mph in his qualifying effort here in today’s bizarre time trial session.
“I pretty much struggle around this place right now so it’s just trying to figure it out, really,” Allmendinger told Dodge PR Representative Jimmy White back in the garage area after qualifying had concluded. “(I am) just trying to get better, but really disappointed with that lap.”
Allmendinger had clocked in with the 11th-fastest lap in the first practice here today and was fourth in the day’s final practice session leading up to qualifying.
After teams had endured a sweltering afternoon with the temperature rising to 101 degrees with a 107-degree heat index, clouds moved in just as qualifying began. The wind began to pick up as a strong storm moved into the area. The session was halted after 21 drivers had made their attempts. The grandstands were cleared as the potential serious system moved through. Many large tents in the infield were overturned or completely destroyed.
When the storm had passed some 25 minutes later, dropping very little precipitation, the qualifying continued. The atmospheric temperature had dropped 20 degrees.
“It helped everybody that got to go after that,” Dinger said. “The track was a lot cooler. The biggest thing was the wind, trying to figure out how much to back the corners up. We just have to get better. It’s rough and it’s slick now. I just have a lot of work to do to try to figure it out. The car has been okay but it’s not fantastic. I think the 2 car (Keselowski) is really good. Brad is really good around here too so that helps a lot.”
Jimmie Johnson claimed the Coors Light Pole Award here this afternoon with a fast lap of 29.700 seconds (181.818 mph). It was his 26th career pole and a track record, after last year’s inaugural Cup race’s qualifying was rained out.
Kyle Busch, fastest in the first practice and the last driver to make his run, took the outside pole with a lap of 29.765 seconds (181.421 mph). Denny Hamlin was third with his lap of 29.810 seconds (181.147 mph), Kevin Harvick fourth with a 29.939 (-second/180.367-mph lap) and Ryan Newman fifth with a 29.944 (-second/180.337 mph lap).
Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski (eighth with a lap of 29.966 seconds/180.204 mph in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out today’s top-10 qualifiers.
“When you do all the practice and qualifying in the heat of the day and then race under the lights at night, it’s really tough all the way around,” said crew chief Todd Gordon. “But it’s the same for every team out there. Penske Racing has been really strong overall at this track and we may have to lean on our teammates a little here to help get our race package going.”
We’ll all get our heads together and figure it out,” Gordon added. “The big goal is to come out of here with another solid race and keep moving forward. I think we can do that here tomorrow night.”
Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 is a 267-lap, 400.5-mile battle around the 1.5-mile D-shaped Kentucky Speedway oval. The green flag is expected to fall just after 7:30 p.m. EDT. Race No. 17 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.