Keselowski wins pole for today’s race at Darlington
Brad Keselowski won the pole for today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway, where he’ll start up front for the first time all season while searching for his first Southern 500 victory.
Keselowski turned a lap at 178.874 mph Saturday to earn his first pole of the season. The Team Penske driver put his Ford in the top starting spot five times last year, but this marks just his third front row starting spot of 2015.
“It’s probably the biggest pole I’ve ever had as far as what the track means,” Keselowski said. “I’ve always thought of Darlington as one of the elite tracks.”
Keselowski, who has two top-10s at Darlington but none since 2011, is hoping to use the Southern 500 as a springboard into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. It’s the penultimate race of the regular season, and Keselowski wants to reclaim some of the momentum he had last year when he rolled into the Chase as the top seed.
“We haven’t had to date as strong of a year as we had last year, and that wears on (the team),” he said. “I’m just really pleased with today’s qualifying result and the momentum we’re carrying.”
But he wasn’t about to get too comfortable prior to the prestigious race tonight on one of the most challenging tracks on the NASCAR circuit.
With its quirky layout — the 1.366-mile layout is shaped like an egg instead of a symmetrical oval — puts most cars against the wall and struggling to avoid smacking it.
The track already has claimed its share of victims this weekend: Kyle Busch hit the wall in practice Friday and went to a backup car, Danica Patrick’s team was pulling out a backup after she hit the wall in qualifying, and Greg Biffle’s crew was fixing damage from Saturday.
“This track is so challenging as a race car driver, you make one mistake and you can take a fast race car and make it a ball of wrecked metal,” Keselowski said.
Denny Hamlin dominates XFINITY RACE
Denny Hamlin has won the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway, where he denied Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez his first career victory.
Suarez inherited the lead when most of the field made their final pit stops and he tried to stretch his fuel to the end.
But Hamlin had fresher tires and chased Suarez down. He passed him with three laps remaining Saturday for his third Xfinity Series win of the season. All three of Hamlin’s victories have come from the pole.
Hamlin led 117 of the 147 laps.
JGR driver Kyle Busch passed Suarez for second, and Suarez finished third as the fleet of Toyotas swept the top three spots.
Kevin Harvick finished fourth in a Chevrolet and was followed by series points leader Chris Buescher in a Ford.