Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keselowski Captures Coca-Cola 600 Pole; Driver Quotes Following Qualifying

Sporting News Wire Service

Keselowski captures second pole of his career Thursday at Charlotte
A strong practice session translated into an excellent qualifying run for Brad Keselowski, as the driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge won the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Keselowski sped around the 1.5-mile track in 28.112 seconds (192.089 mph) Thursday to win the second Coors Light Pole Award of his career, the first coming this past September at New Hampshire. Keselowski edged A.J. Allmendinger (191.693 mph), who will start his second consecutive Sprint Cup points race from the outside of the front row.

Series points leader Carl Edwards, winner of last Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte, will start third after at lap at 191.686 mph. Edwards' lap was one-thousandth of a second slower than Allmendinger's (28.170 seconds versus 28.171). Denny Hamlin (191.367 mph) will line up next to Edwards on the outside of the second row.

Jeff Burton (191.245 mph) qualified fifth. Jimmie Johnson, David Reutimann, David Ragan, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Clint Bowyer will start from positions six through 10, respectively. Stenhouse, driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford in place of Trevor Bayne, is the first driver to make his Cup debut in the Coke 600 since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1999.

Andy Lally, T.J. Bell, Scott Wimmer, Tony Raines and Scott Riggs failed to qualify for the 43-car field.

Coca-Cola 600 Qualifying Notes:
• Brad Keselowski earns his second career pole in his 65th start.
• Brad Keselowski's first pole came at Loudon (2010).
• Brad Keselowski becomes the ninth different pole winner in 11 qualifying sessions this season; Dover was rained out.
• A.J. Allmendinger (second) scored his best start in nine Charlotte races.
• Carl Edwards (third) posted his seventh top-10 start in 12 races this season.
• Denny Hamlin (fourth) posted his best start in 12 races at Charlotte.
• Jeff Burton (fifth) posted his best start since starting fourth in the Daytona 500.
• Jimmie Johnson (sixth) posted top-10 starts in last eight Charlotte races, longest current streak
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified ninth in his career-first start; he is the 26th driver to make his Cup debut in the 600 and the first since Dale Jr. in 1999.

Driver Quotes Following Qualifying

Ragan won the Sprint Showdown just ahead of Keselowski
DAVID RAGAN ON QUALIFYING EFFORT: “We’re prepared. We know what’s in front of us. Qualifying here tonight is just the beginning. It’s obviously a good tone-setter for the rest of the week and allows us to pick a good pit stall. Hopefully, we can wind up here in the top 10, but 600 miles is a long race. You’ve really got three stages, you’ve got the first 150 or so laps – the middle part while the track is changing – and then when it gets really cool in the evening. We feel like we’ve got a good game plan and we’re ready to go try and win this thing.”

GREG BIFFLE ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP: “The car was pretty good, but it just slid the nose a little bit in three and four. I just chattered the front tires, but I thought it was gonna be way faster than that actually. It’s a long race and we know that it’s cooling down fast, so we’ll get bumped down but that’s the way it goes.”

AJ ALLMENDINGER ON QUALIFYING: “The U.S. Air Force Ford is really quick. I’m proud of Mike Shiplett and all the guys and I think we’ve got a good race car. The mile and a half program hasn’t been our best. We’ve been struggling with it a little bit and haven’t been as good as our teammate, Marcos, and a lot of the Fords, so I thought last week in the All-Star Race we got better. We still weren’t as good as we wanted to be, but we learned some things. We came back here with a different plan to work on setup and, so far, at least in qualifying trim, it was pretty good. That will at least get us in the top five or top six, which, for 600 miles it doesn’t really matter at that point. You just want to start up front and now we’ve got to work on Saturday to make the car better and then stay there on Sunday.”

CARL EDWARDS ON HIS CAR THIS WEEK: “We’re fast and that’s a car that we didn’t plan on bringing to this race. I don’t know if you saw it, but I tore up the other car. This one is fast, so we’ve got a fast Scotts EZ Seed Fusion and it looks like we’ll probably be third. That will be a great starting spot. We’ll get a great pit stall and it’s a great way to start off our 600 weekend.”

“The car is very good. Bob and I were a little frustrated with our lap and then we realized that’s OK to qualify third considering where we were a year ago. I think AJ said it well. We’ve been working hard at all of this stuff and the cars are fast. I think at least one of those Fords is gonna be a threat to win on Sunday, so I hope it’s our Ford. It looks like we’ve got a great start.”
Edwards thinks this weeks car may be better than last week
EDWARDS ON WHICH CAR IS BETTER, COKE CAR OR ALL-STAR: “I think this car might be better actually. I didn’t know that the car I tore up had been torn up at Phoenix and it raced at Martinsville and got beat and banged up there. I didn’t feel so bad after that, but this one that we’ve got now is a brand new car and it’s neat.”

EDWARDS ON WHAT’S GOING ON IN MISSOURI? “I’m really proud to be from Missouri, and I’m extra proud after what I’ve seen here the last week. The whole state of Missouri and Oklahoma and Kansas for that matter, everyone has really joined up and volunteered. There are firemen and first responders and hospitals. A couple buddies of mine took their tractors down there to Joplin and they made a base at a church and they went out and helped people get trees off their houses and gather up their belongings. It’s a tragedy. We’re praying and thinking of them and as we learn more, we’ll know who we can help more.”

MARCOS AMBROSE ON QUALIFYING: “We’re just gonna pay the price. We’re not gonna qualify well. We just didn’t get it right this afternoon when the track was hot and it is what it is. It’s a long race, but every spot counts.”

RICKY STENHOUSE, JR. ON HIS EMOTION AFTER QUALIFYING: “I’m relieved to get this thing in. I knew the car had the speed. Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was fast in practice. Whether I could put it all together was a different story and we were able to, which was good. I didn’t imagine we would have a lap that good, but we’ll definitely take it. I left a little bit out there because we just had to get in. These Wood Brothers guys did an awesome job and I just can’t wait to get in the race on Sunday and just try to make all the laps we can. It’s a long race. I’ve got a lot to learn. That was just qualifying, so, hopefully, on Saturday we’ll have a good practice and a good Nationwide race. Our Fastenal Mustang was fast in Nationwide practice and, hopefully, have a good race and get into Sunday and just really learn a lot.”

Burton looked sharp in in practice and qualifying
JEFF BURTON ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP (5TH): “Obviously you always hate to be first in practice and not first in qualifying, but that’s good nonetheless. Obviously we’ve had a tough year and feel like this has always been a good race track for us. Hopefully we can get a good night. It’s good for us to start there and that’s our best effort of the year and that will help us with our pit stall and I’m real happy with that. I’m a little disappointed because we gave up a little bit from where we were in practice but nonetheless I’m still happy with that.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP (6TH): "It wasn’t bad. We had a good practice session and a good qualifying session. I would have liked to have been up there in the top three for the optimal pick on pit road but we’ll take that.”

JOHNSON ON WHAT THE KEY IN THE 600 MARATHON? “Well, it’s a long race and a lot of things take place. So it’s tough to pinpoint just one thing. In a compromise I would say that probably the best phrase to use is that it starts in the day and ends at night. And then what we saw with tire strategy playing out through the All-Star weekend, pit road strategy and what you do there might be a big part of this. Fuel mileage could be an issue. So you’ve got to be on your toes.”

RYAN NEWMAN ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP (12TH): “We didn’t back-up the position we ran in practice. It was a good effort. I’m not happy with it. But we did what we thought was right and just came up short today.”

KEVIN HARVICK ON HIS QUALIFYING (28TH): “It is still not going to be great but everyone on our Budweiser Chevrolet team did a great job just getting it competitive. I feel like we are going to be fine in race trim. We just have been off since we unloaded in qualifying trim. We’ll keep at it. That is better than where we were in practice, so that is an improvement.

HARVICK ON HIS SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME: “Budweiser is a big supporter of our troups so we are running a special scheme this week. Kind of our jet-fighter flat black scheme paying tribute to all of those who serve.”

DALE EARNHARDT, JR ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT (25TH): “I don’t if it is one of the best cars we’ve had in qualifying. We’ve got this feeling we are looking for. We got closer to it. We’ve been terrible all year long in qualifying and today not much better with the grip and the way the car felt in the direction we need to go. We had a real big wiggle in the middle of one and two and jumped up the track and lost some time there. We are gaining on it. Our car was great today when we unloaded in race trim. We were faster than everyone that was around us. I look forward to the race.”

TONY STEWART ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT (22ND): “It was pretty good in one and two. We’ve heard a lot of guys talking about not getting their cars turning down in three and four so I probably turned a little bit early but I made sure I got down and probably gave up a little time there. We made a pretty good gain there. We just didn’t gain as much as we would have liked but there are some guys that were faster than us in practice that we have beat already. Probably going to end up 18th-20th in that range but you have 600 miles. If you don’t get there, it doesn’t matter whether you start first or 43rd, if you have a car that is going to win the race; you are going to win the race no matter where you start. We just have to do our thing.”

Gordon feels pretty confident coming into Coca-Cola 600
JEFF GORDON ON QUALIFYING 11th: “It was a good lap for the Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet team but it wasn’t a great lap. Coming to the green, it definitely didn’t stick the way I was hoping it would. It kind of made me a little nervous. It made me a little bit hesitant to attack three and four like I needed to to be on the pole. The car definitely has got it in it. These guys showed it last week and been showing it today. It is a decent lap. We can do it from there.”

GORDON ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT THE RACE? “We were feeling good from the All-Star Race, this is the same car that we had there. Obviously in the Drive To End Hunger colors on it this weekend. The car felt good. That wasn’t my best lap. I knew that we weren’t going to be on the pole and you always wish you could do it over again.

“The car is definitely driving really good and we just missed it just a slight bit there. The All-Star Race was great for us. The car was good and we feel like we learned some things from that. I think that we can definitely show that in the 600 this weekend.”

MARK MARTIN ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT (13TH): “Our car has got speed but it is playing hide and seek with us. Showed itself a time or two and we’ve been seeking the rest of the time. That is fairly decent. But, you know, there was more there, we just didn’t get every bit of it. Every ounce of it. Last week we qualified a little too loose, tonight we qualified a little too tight. It will be ok. We are up ahead of a lot of good cars and we are going to have a lot of good cars ahead of us.”

CLINT BOWYER ON HIS QUALIFYING (10TH): “I screwed up a little bit getting into three. Got through one and two so good, I just tried to get it all in three and got in there a little bit too hard and it kind of come around on me a little bit and had to wait on it to settle back down so I could get to the gas. Hurt my guys a little bit. But that will be a good starting spot for the big, long race.”

Hamlin and No. 11 team still searching for first win of 2011
DENNY HAMLIN ON HOW IMPORTANT QUALIFYING IS: “We’re by no means a qualifying race team, so that’s a good sign for us and this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I felt like last weekend there were some minor adjustments a little bit more time on the longer runs — we had a pretty good car last weekend. So hopefully now this weekend we’ll get all these bugs worked out and spun around for our FedEx Toyota team. We’re excited about this weekend and looking forward to getting back to victory lane.”

DAVID REUTIMANN ON RUNNING HIS ALL-STAR CHASSIS: “The guys at Michael Waltrip Racing did a great job getting this car back and turning it around. It’s wasn’t the original plan, but we’ve got a good Aaron’s Dream Machine. Really proud of my guys and happy to have the Armed Forces Foundation paint scheme on the car this weekend so we’re hoping to give it a good run.”

BRIAN VICKERS ON HOW GOOD HIS CAR IS FOR THIS WEEKEND: “I think the car is good. We haven’t run in race trim yet, but we really changed a lot of stuff from last week in our base package coming into this week. So far I’ve been really happy with it. I felt really good about one and two. I missed three and four a little — I just rushed the throttle. I felt so good about down there that I tried to get too much down here. That was my fault, but I think the car is good.”

VICKERS ON WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO HAVE PEOPLE'S PICTURES ALL OVER HIS CAR: “It’s pretty awesome. Just the reception from everyone — from the industry to the fans — I’m on there and I’m excited about it. I’m in the car every week and I’m excited about being on the race car. I literally spent five minutes telling the guys here on the team about my photo on here. If I’m that excited, I have to imagine that everyone else is pretty stoked.”

Kyle Busch wasn't too happy about qualifying effort
KYLE BUSCH ON MEANING OF WINNING COCA-COLA 600: “We would love to win this thing. It’s a long race and that’s where we hope our car will really come into play is 500 or 600 mile mark. Just haven’t quite got the speed out of it today that we’ve been looking for. We unloaded last week off the truck and we were really fast. For some reason, this week we seem to be not being able to find it right now. We’ll go to work tonight, think about it and come back Saturday and make some good changes to it. Hopefully, we’ll have a good happy hour and then go get them on Sunday.”

“When you come to Charlotte, it’s typically the part in the season where you look at where you are. You factor in a little give and take — you could probably be three spots better or five spots worse when it comes Chase time. If you just run steady and do your own deal and concentrate on what you’re doing then you’ll be a Chase contender. That’s where we are right now so we feel good about things.”

JOEY LOGANO ON HIS CAR DURING QUALIFYING (23RD): “We just didn’t pick up what we needed to pick up. At times, we were just a little bit too free through the lap — kind of a four-wheel skate going — sort of the same thing we were fighting all day. We’re going to go back and look at it a little bit and see what we can find.”


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