By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- Keselowski only driver over 192 mph
- Allmendinger takes second starting spot
- Stenhouse Jr. starts 9th in debut Cup race
With a lap time of 28.112 seconds, Brad Keselowski claimed the pole starting spot on Thursday for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With the changing weather conditions from the start of the qualifying session to the end at the very weather-sensitive track, Keselowski said his team tried to be a little ahead of what the track was going to be like when they set up his car during practice earlier in the day.
“This car was awesome,” Keselowski told his crew over the radio at the end of his qualifying run.
Keselowski was the only driver to run a qualifying lap at over 192 mph. His fastest lap was at an average speed of 192.089 mph.
My leg was shaking a little bit off turn four.
A.J. Allmendinger will join Keselowski on the front row of the starting grid for the race on Sunday. His lap time of 28.170 seconds was just barely good enough for the second starting spot. Allmendinger’s lap time may not have been as fast as Keselowski’s but it was fast enough to make the driver a little nervous.
“My leg was shaking a little bit off turn four,” Allmendinger said after climbing out of his car.
Carl Edwards, who ended up third, missed a front row start by a scant 0.001 seconds with a time of 28.171 seconds. Edwards will, instead, start third beside Denny Hamlin, who turned in a lap time of 28.218 seconds to claim the fourth starting spot.
Heading into this race weekend, Jeff Gordon had to his credit eight pole starts at Charlotte, including five-straight for the Coca-Cola 600 between 1994 and 1998. This year, however, Gordon wasn’t able to get his No. 24 car into the top-10. His lap time of 28.331 seconds was only good enough for the 11th starting spot.
Of the locked-in cars, Jeff Burton was the fastest in practice, but when it came to qualifying, the best he could do was claim the fifth starting spot with a time of 28.236 seconds.
Forty-eight cars attempted qualifying runs to claim the 43 starting spots for Sunday’s race. Failing to earn starting positions were Andy Lally, T.J. Bell, Scott Wimmer, Tony Raines and Scott Riggs. Raines was only able to make one qualifying lap before the rear end on his car broke.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., attempting to qualify for his first-career Sprint Cup race as a substitute driver for Trevor Bayne, was the class of the go-or-go-home field, putting Wood Brothers Racing’s No. 21 car in the top-10 of the starting grid. His time of 28.309 seconds was ninth-fastest.
According to Stenhouse Jr., his car was fast and if there was speed to be found anywhere, it was with the driver.
“I need to get up to speed,” Stenhouse Jr. said.
The next fastest last time posted by a go-or-go-home car was the 28.725 second-lap of Travis Kvapil for the 31st starting spot.