Friday, Sep 24

The clouds might have been above the track, but no cloud could ruin a pole run for “Bad Brad.”

Brad Keselowski has won the pole for the FedEx 400 at the Dover International Speedway. Keselowski’s time of 21.892 set the track record at Dover as he was the first car to go on track in the final round of qualifying.

The pole award marks the fifth time that Keselowski will lead the field to the green flag in what will be his 174th career start in NASCAR’s premier division. With the new qualifying format, Keselowski’s average starting position was 6.8 with seven front row starts in 12 races, and the 11th front row start for Team Penske between Joey Logano and he.

"I don't know if it is any different from last year. At this time last year, we were very similar in the standings and in laps led. We just didn't have the finishes other than the one win, but we are qualifying better," Keselowski said.

"I think the cars are built a lot differently than they were last year, and I think Ford has done a great job catching up with the front nose piece that kind of put us behind when the Gen Six car came out. I don't think we were far off before, we just needed those little pieces that were kind of outside of our control."

Kevin Harvick, along with Logano, went out a second time, but was not able to improve on old tires. Harvick will start eighth on Sunday at Dover, and it is the seventh straight weekend where he will start 11th or better.

Kyle Busch set the initial track record of the day in the first round with a time of 21.898 seconds at 164.399 mph, but was not able to duplicate his lap in the second round, coming just short of Keselowski’s time to start on the outside pole.

 Dale Earnhardt Jr. barely missed the cut as A.J. Allmendinger knocked him out of the top-12 with a minute remaining in round one. Earnhardt Jr. went back on track along with Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch, but none of them were able to advance to the second and final round of qualifying.

After qualifying was completed, Busch said he came up just a little short of the pole as he got loose in between turns three and four.

Brett Moffitt, making his Sprint Cup Series debut for Identity Ventures Racing, will start 18th on Sunday at Dover. Moffitt, 21, has just one prior start in the Nationwide Series and two in the Camping World Truck Series. However, he is a two-time winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at Dover, and is replacing Joe Nemechek in the No. 66 Toyota this weekend.  

Here are some notables from qualifying:

  • Carl Edwards will start 29th after being sixth in first practice. 
  • Tony Stewart will start 20th in the No. 14 car. Stewart is the reigning winner of this event and has not won a race since.
  • Kyle Larson was the highest qualifying rookie in fifth. 
  • Kurt Busch will start 24th after being 20th in first practice. 

One million dollars is on the line Saturday evening. No, it is not your ordinary NASCAR race. This is not just a preparation for NASCAR’s longest spectacle. This is the Sprint All-Star Race.

Jimmie Johnson has won back-to-back All-Star events, and is going for his third straight win. However, Johnson will have to beat Brad Keselowski who is driving the “best car he has ever driven” for the All-Star Race. Johnson had the second fastest 10 lap average in the lone practice session on Friday afternoon, but Keselowski was more than 1.2 mph faster than Johnson.

This edition of NASCAR’s All-Star event is setting up to be different from each of the previous races. After holding the Sprint Showdown on Friday evening, the three drivers which were able to lock themselves into the All-Star Race, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Josh Wise, will be enabled to qualify with the drivers already locked into the one-of-a-kind event. Bowyer and Allmendinger were the class of the 23-car field. Wise pulled off the fan vote upset thanks to the Reddit.Com community, stunning the NASCAR world by beating Danica Patrick in the popularity contest. This will be Wise’s first career All-Star Race start after finishing 18th in the Sprint Showdown.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. paced the practice session on Friday afternoon, but was several miles per hour off the pace set by Keselowski, ending the day sixth out of seven cars to run 10 consecutive laps. Earnhardt Jr. currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, and is looking to get his first win at Charlotte for the All-Star Race since he won the event during his rookie season.

Coming off of his win at Kansas, Jeff Gordon has plenty of momentum heading into the All-Star Race. Gordon is the points leader after 11 races, and looks to win his first All-Star Race since 2001. However, he has not finished inside of the top-10 for one of NASCAR’s most coveted events since third place finish in 2006.

Kevin Harvick was the fastest car during the test at Charlotte over the winter. Throughout all of the simulation races NASCAR held during that test, Harvick was arguably the best car no matter what type of aero package NASCAR created. Harvick was fourth in practice, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, and he are looking to win their first All-Star Race together. Harvick's teammate, Kurt Busch, will make it to the All-Star Race after qualifying his No. 26 Honda in the IndyCar Series for his first Indianapolis 500 start. Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet was practiced by Parker Kligerman, who is on standby in case Busch misses the All-Star Race or Coca-Cola 600. 

Qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race will be held on Saturday evening preceding the main event at 7:10 p.m. ET. This qualifying session will be unlike any other throughout the season as drivers will run three laps with a four-tire pit stop without a pit road speed limit, and the total time elapsed will determine the starting grid. This is the first time qualifying will be held on the same evening as the All-Star Race.

After qualifying is completed, the All-Star Race will start at approximately 9:00 p.m. ET. 

 

Short tracks always get tempers flaring. Matt Kenseth knows that a little too well by now. A few years ago, Jeff Gordon yanked him by the collar at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Now, Kenseth has gotten into trouble with NASCAR's most outspoken driver, Brad Keselowski. 

On a night where tires were blowing, flames were soaring out of cars and tempers were flaring like Bugs Bunny against Elmer Fudd - but not in such a humorous fashion, Kenseth and Keselowski started the first of possibly many wars to come.

Kenseth and Keselowski were battling for the lead with a handful of laps remaining during Saturday evening's running of the Toyota Owner's 400 at the Richmond International Raceway. Keselowski went to pass Kenseth, but was seemingly blocked by the driver of the No. 20 Toyota. After racing side-by-side for slightly over a lap, Keselowski went for the lead off of Turn Four, but his car became extremely loose. This lead to Keselowski's teammate, Joey Logano, going under the duo battling for the front spot, and was able to hold onto the lead to win his second race of the year.

"I had a shot at winning the race, and I felt like he ran me up the track," Keselowski said after the race. "You make a move like that when you are going to win the race, not when you are just keeping someone else from winning a race. 

Proceeding the "block," Keselowski tapped Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing car multiple times in the closing laps, but nothing too serious. However, once the checkered flag waved, chaos erupted between the two. Even though no fists were thrown like Marcos Ambrose's epic punch which connected with Casey Mears' face, the two have been fighting words - something that might come into play as the season continues.

When the drivers were heading to pit road as the race concluded, Keselowski took his frustration out on Kenseth's car, starting a brand new rivalry. Keselowski got into Kenseth on the cool-down lap, causing a domino effect with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger each hitting Kenseth's rear bumper. Kenseth sits second in the points standings while Keselowski is seventh, but also has a win which should lock him into NASCAR's version of the playoffs.

Now, NASCAR has their newest rivalry. The two have completely different personalities, and it does not appear they want to make amends anytime soon. In the days since the hectic race, the two drivers have hit to social media to do some venting. 

Someone should have told Kenseth fans that the race was during the evening.

Keselowski then Tweeted out this message: "Huge thank you to gargoyles for giving me glasses so great I don't want to give them away," with a picture of his rather nice pair of sunglasses.

Prior to this, Joe Gibbs Racing Tweeted out a picture of Kenseth's damaged car:

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if the two drivers act on their budding rivalry. In the midst of a season where ratings have decreased compared to 2013, a rivalry between two championship contenders can certainly bring back some interest into NASCAR.

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