Friday was the day of Brad Keselowski at the Texas Motor Speedway. Throughout the day the No. 2 team was over a tenth of a second faster than his closest competition. Whether it was the opening practice session of the week or any of the three round sinqualifying,
“I was all over the track the last round,” Keselowski said of his pole-winning lap. “The tires started to wear out and I came off of Turn 4 and I felt for sure that I lost it. The Wurth Ford Fusion has been really good since we unloaded. Similar to Kansas when we were really fast in practice, really fast in qualifying, we just need it to stay with us in the race.”
After a disappointing finish at Martinsville, Keselowski is in almost a “must-win” situation in one of the next two races to get to the championship race. With a good start to the weekend Team Penske looks to be on their way.
Kevin Harvick qualified on the outside for row one for Sunday’s 500-mile race, but was nearly a tenth and-a-half behind Keselowski. The past two races at Texas, Harvick has finished in the second position, but would like to one better that and solidify himself into the championship race at Homestead.
“The first round I didn’t feel like we had the raw speed that a lot of the guys had,” Harvick said. “I think that shows a lot about how our racecar is going to be like in race runs with how consistent it was in speed on each round.”
Kyle Busch slotted in third with a pretty quick racecar. Busch is a two-time winner at Texas, but could not race in the spring due to his injuries. The No. 18 team will look to pick up its fifth win of the season on Sunday.
“I thought it went pretty good for us,” Busch said of his qualifying runs. “We were a little bit loose in on the first couple runs, but we snugged it up for that last run and we were really good. Overall, I think I left a little out in (Turns) 1 and 2.”
After last week’s controversy, Joey Logano finished fourth after his qualifying run. Logano has won the last two race on 1.5-mile race tracks at Charlotte and Kansas and would like to carve his name into the championship race at Homestead and will likely need a win to do so. He won at Texas back in April of 2014.
“I thought we were pretty good in race runs,” Logano said of how he feels in race conditions. “There weren’t many teams in race runs, but I thought our car drove pretty good. That’s what it’s all about, getting a car to drive good because then you’ve got something to race with.”
Kurt Busch will start in seventh after having a solid car in each of the three rounds. The No. 41 team won the pole at Texas back and April and led the majority of the opening race. Much like Logano, Busch will more than likely need to win after crashing out of Martinsville.
19-year-old Camping World Truck Series points leader, Erik Jones will start a career-high sixth as he is filling in for Matt Kenseth after his take in the incident with Joey Logano at Martinsville. Jones has one career Cup start coming back in May at Kansas where he drove for the injured Kyle Busch. Jones was running fifth in that race when he lost control of his car and ultimately finished in a disappointing 42nd.
“I don’t think it’s really an easy situation for anyone involved,” Jones said. It’s a cool opportunity nonetheless for me to get in this DeWalt Camry and just have a shot to go out and be competitive in the Cup Series is a pretty cool opportunity in itself. We have a good car here, and we’ll just see how it all plays out.”
Three of the Chase drivers failed to make it into the final round of qualifying. Carl Edwards was the quickest out of the three after posting the 13th fastest lap and missing the cutline by four thousandths of a second. This is a bit of a disappointing run for the No. 19 team as Texas has always been one of Edwards’ better tracks and he was third in the first practice of the weekend.
“Just a little bit loose,” Edwards said of his qualifying run. “The car is fast though. I thought it would come to me in the second run, it didn’t. That’s how it goes with these changing conditions and the competition the way it is you’ve got to get every last thing.”
Martinsville winner, Jeff Gordon will begin the 500-mile race from the 18th position. Gordon fought a tire rub through the first two rounds of qualifying that slowed his speed and proved to be a disadvantage. The No. 24 team doesn’t have to worry about advancing to Homestead because of the win at the paperclip, but this could be a test for them to see how the team has improved on 1.5-mile race tracks.
“We were just lacking speed,” Gordo said of his disappointing qualifying run. “It’s crazy fast right now it’s ridiculous how much faster it is this time around then earlier in the year. That first time out I was wide-open and we were still a few tenths off. That’s about all we had and obviously we want more.”
Martin Truex, Jr. was the slowest of the Chase drivers and qualified in a disappointing 23rd. Truex was fast at Texas in April and had one of the cars to beat. With his championship hopes on the line the No. 78 team must improve in the practice sessions on Saturday to have a piece to work with on Sunday.
There were a couple of big-time teams that failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying. Ryan Blaney was the first driver who missed the cut after being in the top-10 in the earlier practice session. The No.21 team missed the cutline by just six thousandths of a second. Austin Dillon has shown speed over the past several months, but he wound up 26th on Friday evening. Martinsville runner-up, Jamie McMurray qualified 27th on Friday after having the sixth quickest time in the opening practice session. McMurray has had some good runs in the past at Texas, but this time will have to come from a deep starting position.
Last year’s Chase race at Texas proved to be one of the more dramatic events during the 10 week quest for the championship. It will be interesting to see what unfolds on Sunday in the Lone Star State.