Competitors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series got their first tastes of Formula One-style “knockout” qualifying on Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, setting the field for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500. Team Penske dominated by “winning” both of the two sessions and sweeping the front row on the starting grid for the race.
Brad Keselowski will start on the pole Sunday after a fast lap of 25.828 seconds/139.384 mph during the second 10-minute round. Teammate Joey Logano turned in a lap at 25.850 seconds/139.265 mph in the round to claim the other front-row starting spot.
“I think you have to have a fast car; that’s the big thing,” Keselowski said when asked about the best strategy to come out of the new qualifying format with the pole.
Both Logano and Keselowski were among the first out during the first round of 30 minutes and posted lap times early on that stood for the remainder of the round, with Logano having the fastest lap and his teammate behind him in second.
When the second round started, Logano was, again, one of the first drivers out. He posted a lap early in the round that was better than the previous track record. Even so, it was a lap that was soon bettered by Keselowski.
“Unfortunately, we won the wrong one,” Logano said of being fastest in the first round instead of the second. “Our teammate got the second one, but at least we both got a chance to win something today.”
The fastest 12 from the first round advanced to the second round to qualify for positions one through 12 on the race’s starging grid. At the end of qualifying, third through sixth were Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle. Kyle Larson was the only rookie to advance to the round of 12 and qualified seventh. Kyle Busch was eighth, Aric Almirola ninth, Kurt Busch 10th, Kasey Kahne 11th and Denny Hamlin 12th.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR