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.
Matt Kenseth Tames the Monster in Dover
The No. 20 car took the lead after a big crash with 46 laps to go involving 10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson. From there the crafty veteran didn't look back as he led the final the remaining laps and stamped his name into the Chase.
"At time we were on and at times we were off," Kenseth said after his victory. "It just kind of depended on track position. We had one good where we were really good and then we never quite got it there again. It was one of those days where everything lined up for us at the end of the race and we were the only one left out there with two [tires]. We got a couple short runs to cycle everyone else's tires."
This is Kenseth's third win at the Monster Mile and his first triumph since the second Chase race in 2015. Joe Gibbs Racing recorded its 135th win as an organization, tying Roush Fenway Racing for third most all-time.
After going a lap down in the first long stint of the event, Kyle Larson rebounded to lead 85 laps, coming up just short of his first career victory. Going back to last week in Kansas, Larson has ran in the top five the majority of both races. Acknowledging that Chip Ganassi Racing has struggled over the last season or so, he believes that the team has begun to turn the corner.
"I wouldn't say it was a complete 180," Larson said post-race. "I definitely think we are moving in the right direction. The performances we've has the last few weeks have showed. We just got to keep working hard and never get content with where we are. In my third year I've learned that a lot."
With the second-place finish, Larson has now been the runner-up four times in his Cup career without heading to Victory Lane.
For a while it looked like Chase Elliott was going to pass both Kenseth and Larson as they raced hard for the victory. He began to fade in the later stages, but then rebounded to finish a half-second off the top two. The way that the 20-year-old has ran the past month or so it would seem like a victory is right around the corner.
"You hope your close," Elliott said. "For me I feel like I have a team capable of winning. The way I see it today is we had our shot and had a chance to do it today and I didn't do it. It's as simple as that, you either do or you don't."
Recording another top-10 finish for the No. 24 team, Elliott now leads Hendrick Motorsports in top 10 finishes in 2016 with eight.
Kasey Kahne rebounded from a car in which hovered around 10th for the majority of the race to finish fourth. It marks his second top-five finish of the year, the other coming at Richmond three weeks ago. Kurt Busch rounded out the top five, picking up his fourth of 2016.
On Lap 354, the race took a turn when Johnson's car got stuck in gear. The No. 48 machine was the leader on a restart when there was more than a 10-car pileup. Other drivers in the incident included Kevin Harvick whom led 117 laps early in the race, but finished 15th and Martin Truex, Jr. who was the leader prior to that restart, but after taking four tires under caution restarted fourth, right behind the six-time champion. The No. 78 car came back to finish ninth.
Brad Keselowski finished sixth after having contact with Austin Dillon while running in second on Lap 282. Having to repair the entire right front fender, the No. 2 crew fought back to get it's seventh top 10 of the season.
One of the bigger incidents of the time came with 40 laps to go when Larson tagged the left rear of Carl Edwards sending him into the inside wall on the backstretch. Up to that point of the race, the No. 19 car had been out front for 27 laps, but came home 28th.
The Cup Series heads into it's All-Star break next week in Charlotte. Through the first 12 events, Harvick has a 21 point lead on Kyle Busch.
Joe Gibbs Racing Tops Practice Sessions in Dover
Much like all season long, Joe Gibbs Racing was quick on track in preparation for the main event. In the first session it was Kyle Busch who was quickest.
Busch was the fast car out on track in the opening practice Saturday morning. The No. 18 laid down an early lap of 157.839 mph, which is just less than eight mph slower than the quick time on Friday.
Two of his JGR teammates were right behind him on speed. Denny Hamlin posted an early lap of 157.356 mph. Carl Edwards was third at 157.006 mph, just over a tenth of a second off the fast lap.
Ryan Newman was fourth in the session at 156.770 mph and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five 156.590 mph.
Pole-sitter, Kevin Harvick was 10th fastest in the session at 156.413 mph. The No. 4 team dominated the race in the fall leading 355 of the 400 laps.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson was 12th on the board, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott was eighth, quickest of all the rookie drivers.
The fourth JGR driver, Matt Kenseth recorded the 19th best time. He was just over three-tenths of a second off the top time. After being involved in a big practice crash on Friday, Danica Patrick led the way of drivers in backup cars with the 25th quickest time. Jamie McMurray was just behind in 26th and Tony Stewart was mired down in 34th.
Hamlin led the way at a lap of 157.329 mph. In the past Dover has been the Achilles heel for the No. 11 team, but he has been fast all weekend long.
Harvick rebounded from the first practice to lay down the second quickest lap in the second session. He ran a speed of 156.447 mph which was over a tenth of a second behind the hot lap that Hamlin put down.
The younger Busch brother was third fast at 156.365 mph, with his older brother in fourth at 155.777 mph. Elliott rounded out the top five on the board at 155.696 mph.
Kenseth improved on the morning session and went to eighth in race conditions.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was down to 25th on the leader board. The No. 88 car will start on the outside of the front row when the green flag waves, but struggled Saturday in race conditions.
McMurray ran 62 laps in the session, most out of the 39 drivers that completed a lap. The No. 1 machine struggled in his backup car prior to this practice that he ended in 17th.
The last time NASCAR was at the Monster Mile, McMurray finished fourth at Dover and finished one position shy of making it into the next round of the Chase.
The green flag will wave shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.
The last time the Cup Series ran at Dover, Harvick led 355 laps en route to securing a Chase birth into the second round of the Chase. On Friday, it was a lap of 165.145 mph that secured the pole for the No. 4 car. Had that lap been ran in qualifying it would have set a new track record.
"That definitely changes your approach," Harvick said of the possibility of rain. "That's what the forecast looked like all week and we just decided to come with qualifying trim."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will line up second after having one of his better practices of the year. At a lap of 164.707 mph it will be his best start since he was awarded the pole at Daytona last summer. The qualifying for that event was also postponed due to rain.
"Hopefully we can get some practice in tomorrow and work on the race setup a bit," said Earnhardt.
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will start alongside in Row 2. Each driver has a victory on the concrete at Dover and both have already clinched a spot in the Chase this season.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will round out the top five, running a lap in practice at 163.815 mph.
The other two JGR cars will lineup inside of the top 10, Denny Hamlin in sixth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th. While fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Brian Scott was the only driver to make a race run in practice. He will start 17th on Sunday.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson will start from 21st, with Joey Logano alongside in 22nd. Other notable drivers starting toward the rear are Jamie McMurray 24th, Danica Patrick 31st and Tony Stewart 34th.
There are two practice sessions on Saturday to prepare for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.