By AMANDA VINCENT
Non-playoff driver Brad Keselowski claimed the pole for Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500, the first race of the second round of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, with a 28.573-second/188.990 mph lap in the second and final round of qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday. It’s Keselowski’s first pole since 2019.
“That was a heckuva lap. I was proud to show my speed and be starting on the front row on pole,” Keselowski said. “This is a tough track to qualify at because the speeds are so high and the track is so slick and hot. We were able to put a lap together. Three and four was one of those gutsy laps where you hold it wide open through there and hope it sticks. It was really close but we made it through. That was probably the difference maker. I haven’t gone back and seen all the data but I just committed to running through it wide open and it made it. Credit to Matt McCall, the crew chief of the team, here, who worked on the car. We unloaded a little bit with that warmup session and we weren’t bad, but we weren’t good enough. We made two good changes, and here we are. We had a great test in Miami, here, this week and learned a lot, and we applied some of that here to what we have today and got some results from it. It is a super exciting time for me and for our company, here, at RFK with a lot of the progress we have made over the last few months, and now it is actually starting to show up. It has been a painful journey but a good one. I am proud of our lap. It didn’t come unearned, but we have a long way to go tomorrow for 500 miles here in Texas. Obviously, this is a really tough, grueling race. I have led a lot of laps here and been in a position to win this race before, but it hasn’t come together. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the day. It is certainly a great spot to start from.”
Keselowski will share the front row of the Texas race starting grid with former Team Penske teammate Joey Logano.
“I thought I had it until I didn’t,” Logano said. “The guys gave me a really fast race car. It is fast in race trim as well. I thought I had a decent (turn) and and two but had to come out of the gas just a touch in three and four. Maybe that was enough to be the difference. It is hard to say. Dang, I wish I could have that lap back. Paul did a great job of getting our car better than what it was the first time we were here to where it doesn’t even feel like we have less grip with the hotter temperatures. I wish we were starting first, but we have a Ford front row, so that is good; it is just the wrong Ford.”
Both Keselowski and Logano advanced to the second round of qualifying from group A in round one — a group that was led by Tyler Reddick’s 28.593-second/188.857 mph lap.
Reddick qualified fourth to share row two of Sunday’s grid with third-place starter William Byron. Byron was fastest among group B drivers in the opening round of qualifying with a 28.588-second/188.890 mph lap.
Reddick was eliminated from the playoffs a week ago at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. He and Keselowski are among four drivers who either didn’t make the playoffs or already have been eliminated but qualified inside the top-10 at Texas. The other two are Michael McDowell in fifth and Reddick’s Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon in seventh.
Other top-10 qualifiers include Chase Elliott in sixth, Denny Hamlin in eighth, Kyle Larson ninth, and Daniel Suarez in 10th.
While half of the remaining 12 championship contenders qualified inside the top-10, the six who didn’t include Austin Cindric in 11th, Ross Chastain 12th, Ryan Blaney 14th, Alex Bowman 17th, Christopher Bell 22nd and Chase Briscoe 30th.