Austin Dillon Tops the Speed Chart in Final Practice at Michigan
Michigan is Dillon's "favorite racetrack." The last time the Cup Series sped around the 2.0-mile oval, the No. 3 car was out front for 19 laps after starting in the back and picking up a fourth-place finish.
Brad Keselowski, hometown driver, was second on the leader board in the final session at 194.013 mph. He has never recorded a victory at his home track.
Jimmie Johnson was third on the board at 193.851 mph. Trevor Bayne led Roush Fenway Racing in fourth at 193.778 mph and Pocono winner, Kurt Busch completed the top five at 193.741 mph.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Martin Truex, Jr. Kyle Larson, pole-sitter Joey Logano and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.
Ryan Blaney was the fastest rookie on Saturday, while his nemesis, Chase Elliott was 21st on speed, running 47 laps, the most of all drivers. The 20-year-old got into the wall with about 10 minutes remaining, scuffing up the right rear of the car. The No. 24 car got back out on track to complete more laps.
After posting the fastest time in opening practice Saturday morning, Carl Edwards was mired down in 17th at 192.947 mph. 3All four of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were outside the top 10 with Denny Hamlin leading the train of drivers in 11th.
38 cars took time in Happy Hour. Truex led the way on best 10 lap averages at 191.991 mph. He had a pair of third-place finishes last season at Michigan.
The 400-mile race is scheduled to begin shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. Last year, Busch was victorious in a rain-shortened event.
Kasey Kahne Looking Forward to Summer Months
With a sixth-place finish as Pocono on Monday, Kasey Kahne has put the past in the rear view mirror and is focusing on a stretch of races that he expects to perform well at.
In the latter part of the 400-mile event at Pocono, Kahne surged through the field to be the third Hendrick Motorsports cars in the top six, Jimmie Johnson crashed out on Lap 122.
“Our car was real solid,” Kahne said post-race in Pocono. “I think we can take something similar to Michigan next week, it’s a similar racetrack in a lot of ways.”
Sitting 18th in the point standings, 13 markers behind the Chase cutoff, Kahne and the No. 5 team are coming to a string of racetracks that the team has normally ran well at.
Kahne has won at each of the next two race tracks, Michigan and Sonoma. In his career the summer months have fared well for him. He’s won at tracks including New Hampshire, Pocono and Bristol in a little over four years with Hendrick Motorsports.
Compared to last season, the No. 5 team is sits 10 positions further back through 14 events. However, it was the summer months that led to the downfall of Kahne and his race team in 2015.
In the final 12 races leading up to the Chase in 2015, Kahne averaged a 22.6 average finish, dropping him from eighth to 18th in the standings. That’s where he finished the season in points, the lowest since 2010 when he was 20th in the point’s, driving for Richard Petty Motorsports.
“I’m frustrated a lot,” Kahne said of his season. “I hate running bad. I’m not happy with the results. Two weeks in a row at Charlotte we should have been competing for top fives and we had no chance.”
The No. 5 car has an average finish of 16.7 thus far in 2016, having yet to lead a single lap.
His three Hendrick Motorsports teammates have combined to lead 360 laps, including a race-high 51 by Chase Elliott in Pocono.
Kahne believes that this next stretch of races could make, or break his year. Paired with crew chief Keith Rodden for the second consecutive season, the duo needs to perform up to Hendrick Motorsports standards.
“This is good for momentum just to know that we hit on a couple of things with the car,” Kahne said after finish sixth. “I look forward to running something very similar at Michigan and then we’ll go to Sonoma and that’s probably my favorite racetrack. Hopefully we can run really well and start clicking off top 10s each week in order to get into Victory Lane.”
Kahne has two top-five finishes so far this season with a pair of fourth-place efforts at Richmond and Dover. In each of the past two seasons, the No. 5 car finished in the top five, three times.
As the circuit comes to some of Kahne’s favorite tracks, he must continue to put a line of consistency on the board in order to make this year’s addition of the Chase. If not, it will be his third consecutive season of finishing 15th or worse in the point standings.
Busch Brothers Fastest in Final Practice at Pocono
After getting just 20 minutes of practice on Friday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was able to go the full distance in final practice on Saturday at Pocono Raceway.
The session was led by Kyle Busch at 176.901 mph. Completing 21 laps, the No. 18 team focused strictly on race runs. The No. 18 will begin the 400-mile event from the outside of the sixth row, a place that he is searching for his first career victory at the "Tricky Triangle."
"With the way our cars at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) have been overall, I’m very optimistic that we could score a victory there this weekend or, if not, when we come back later in the summer," Busch said.
Kurt Busch was second on the leader board in the practice session. He laid down a lap of 176.800 mph, which was less than a half-tenth off his brother's time. The former Pocono winner will start from ninth on Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson was third on the board with a lap at 176.710 mph, Martin Truex, Jr. was fourth at 176.291 and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five at 176.125 mph.
Pole-sitter, Brad Keselowski was sixth on the board. The No. 2 car ran 27 laps on the racetrack and the team was happy with the car they have on track.
"I think were decent, it's hard to say," Keselowski said. "We need to look at some data, but I don't think were far off. Starting up front gives you a lot of confidence for sure."
Keselowski's Team Penske teammate Joey Logano was seventh, with Matt Kenseth eighth, rookie Ryan Blaney was ninth and AJ Allmendinger fulfilled the top 10.
The younger Busch brother had the best 10 consecutive laps, while Harvick ran 34 laps, the most of all drivers.
Team Penske Sweeps the Front Row in Pocono
After Joey Logano was quickest in the first two rounds of qualifying, his teammate Brad Keselowski took the final round en route to his first pole of 2016 and first pole at Pocono Raceway. His previous best qualifying results at the "Tricky Triangle" were a pair of third-place efforts in 2014.
It was a speed of 181.726 mph that claimed the top spot. Logano ran a speed of 181.400 mph, nearly a tenth of a second off the pole-winning time.
"It was a really solid effort for Team Penske," Keselowski said. "To get 1-2 is hard to do, but we had great speed today. I wasn't really sure what to expect with the rain and all of the other variables that were thrown at us with no practice."
The last seven times that Keselowski has started on pole, he has finished in the top 10 each time with two victories.
After Logano, it was August winner Matt Kenseth who placed third at 181.316 mph. Kevin Harvick had the fourth best time at 181.192 mph and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five at 180.759 mph.
"I didn't do a very good job today," Harvick said of his fourth-place effort. "The car was a lot faster than the driver today. The guys did a job preparing a good job, but I wasn't in a good rhythm and didn't do a good job in any of the rounds to get everything out of the car that I needed to."
Tony Stewart will start sixth in his best qualifying effort since Michigan last August when he began that 400-mile race fifth.
Jimmie Johnson will start seventh, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. eighth, Kurt Busch ninth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th with Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney alongside in 14th.
The defending race winner, Martin Truex, Jr. posted the 17th quickest time in qualifying. The No. 78 team feels that they missed the setup completely and thought the track was going to be something different. It took them two tries to get through the first round, which put more laps on their tires, hurting the speed in Round Two.
"We just totally missed it off the trailer, which is unusual for our team," Truex said. "We were way off our first run in practice and had so many different ideas about what it might have been. It felt so bad that it felt like the tires were wrong or we had a bad set."
Final practice is set to begin at 11:30 on Saturday weather depending. It will be the only time that the teams will be able to practice on race trim because no driver completed more than seven laps in the opening practice on Friday.
Fog remained a factor for what turned into be just a 20 minute practice when rain came and halted cars from working on qualifying setup. 28 cars participated in practice, so if qualifying is rained out in the afternoon the starting lineup will be set by owner standings.
Carl Edwards posted the fastest single lap speed at 179.802 mph, which was over one mph faster than Kevin Harvick, who recorded the second fastest lap. If rain cancels qualifying, the No. 4 Chevrolet would start from the pole on Sunday.
Last year's pole-sitter for this event, Kurt Busch was third on the leader board at 178.649 mph. Paul Menard was fourth at 178.250 mph and defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Joey Logano, Greg Bffle and Tony Stewart rounded out the top 10.
Three drivers were tied for most laps ran in the practice session at seven. Cup Series rookie Chris Buescher led the way in that category at 23rd. Michael Annett and Brian Scott also completed seven laps and were the two slowest cars on one lap speed.
Notable drivers who didn't complete a lap were August winner, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon.
Qualifying is set to role at 4:15 p.m. ET if rain moves out of the Pocono Mountains.