Brad Keselowski looked to be on his way to being the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series repeat pole winner of 2014 after posting a 27.633 seconds (195.419 mph) in the third and final round of qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500. But in the waning seconds of the session, Tony Stewart turned in a 27.628-second (195.454 mph) lap to take the pole at the last possible moment.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” Keselowski said. “We wanted to sit on the pole, but it wasn’t meant to be. Tony, obviously, put down a great lap there at the end. I didn’t see that one coming. I thought we had it, but that’s why they do it this way.”
It’s Stewart’s first pole since September 2012, and he becomes the seventh different pole sitter in the seven races, so far, in 2014.
“The first run, I knew I didn’t run a very good lap, and then the second run really wasn’t much different than that, but we knew we had a heat cycle on the tires,” Stewart said. “This thing is fast. It was good in the first run, and in the second run, it was pretty good and we were second and we ran a little bit quicker. We didn’t know what we could run this third time, but I knew what (Greg) Biffle had run. The good thing is (crew chief) Chad Johnston made a really big change there to try and make it better.”
Kevin Harvick will start third on Sunday, sharing the second row with Greg Biffle. Despite winding up third in qualifying, Harvick is the new owner of the Texas Motor Speedway track qualifying record with a lap time of 27.234 seconds (198.292 mph), posted in the first round. It’s the fastest qualifying lap time, ever, for NASCAR on a mile-and-a-half track. Several other drivers also surpassed the old track record, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Trevor Bayne, Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.
Biffle’s 27.518-second (196.235 mph) lap was the fastest of the second round. The 12 drivers advancing from the second round to the third and battle for the pole included (in the order they will start on Sunday) Stewart, Keselowski, Harvick, Biffle, Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Bayne, Newman, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano, Busch and Jeff Gordon.
Logano continued his last round streak to remain the only driver who has advanced to the final round of qualifying in each session since the format was implemented. Heading into Texas, Logano and Johnson held that distinction, but Johnson wound up 16th and didn’t advance out of round two.
“Today, we’re really surprised not to have pace here in qualifying,” Johnson said. “We have a very fast race car, in race trim especially. Our car is blazing fast. Qualifying hasn’t always been my strong suit, and today, it showed up here for whatever reason.”
With 47 drivers making qualifying attempts, four failed to make the race — David Stremme, Ryan Truex, Joe Nemechek and J.J. Yeley.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR