Ke­selowski wins pole at Rich­mond; fourth this year

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - SPORTS - By HANK KURZ Jr.

RICH­MOND, Va. — Brad Ke­selowski couldn’t have been hap­pier with the way his Fri­day un­folded at Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way.

Ke­selowski ran a lap at 126.618 mph to win the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Satur­day night and said he has set his sights on break­ing a five-way tie for the se­ries vic­tory lead to gain an ad­van­tage in NASCAR’s play­offs.

The 16-driver field for the Chase for the cham­pi­onship will be finalized after the race, and the four other driv­ers who have won three times — Jeff Gor­don, Jim­mie John­son, Kevin Har­vick and Joey Logano — will start sec­ond through fifth.

“It’d be nice to put up another win and be kind of the lead dog, so to speak,” Ke­selowski said.

The Penske Rac­ing driver has never won at Rich­mond, but thinks he might be ready to change that.

“This is by far the best car I’ve had” in 11 vis­its to Rich­mond, he said. “I feel like we have a re­ally strong shot at win­ning this week­end, so I’m very, very ex­cited. Every­body says they’re ex­cited, but when you are sit­ting on the pole, and fastest in prac­tice, you have good rea­son to be ex­cited.”

The pole also is his fourth of the sea­son after he en­tered the year with three in his ca­reer. It also al­lows his to grab the first pit stall, giv­ing him a clear path back onto the track after pit stops.

I think on the short tracks, the first pit stall is prob­a­bly more im­por­tant than any­where else,” he said.

Gor­don was a dis­tant sec­ond at 126.039 mph, fol­lowed by John­son, his Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports team­mate, at 125.898.

After Har­vick and Logano, the sixth-best qual­i­fier — and first of the 17 driv­ers with a chance to win his way into the Chase for the cham­pi­onship — was Clint Bowyer, who also hap­pens to con­sider the 0.75-mile oval his best track.

“We have nowhere to go but up,” Bowyer said. “I re­ally do feel like we’re a top-five car for sure and any­time you’re a top-five car, with a lit­tle bit of ad­just­ing, some help, some luck, what­ever the case, you can win th­ese races.”

Gor­don and John­son felt for­tu­nate to fare so well after a dif­fi­cult day.

“It’s been re­ally stress­ful to be hon­est,” John­son said of prac­tice and qual­i­fy­ing, held in sun­shine and 90-de­gree heat.

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