By Hank Kurz Jr.,AP
RICHMOND, Virginia–Brad Keselowski claimed pole on Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday and 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
“It’d be nice to put up another win and be kind of the lead dog, so to speak,” said Keselowski, tied for the series victory lead at three with Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano.
The Penske Racing driver has never won at Richmond.
“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.
“On the short tracks, the first pit stall is probably more important than anywhere else,” he said.
Gordon was a distant second, followed by Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
Kevin Harvick was fourth, and Logano five. 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 1.2-kilometer (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.”