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Loudon Notes: Keselowski On NNS Pole

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 25 2010

Danica Patrick back in NASCAR. She qualified 25th for Saturday afternoon's Nationwide Series race. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Loudon, N.H. – Points leader Brad Keselowski captured the pole for this afternoon’s New England 200 Nationwide Series race with a speed of 129.657 mph during qualifying Saturday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It was the sixth series pole for Keselowski, who has three victories this season.

Carl Edwards, the winner of last weekend’s race at Road American and in second place in the standings, was second fastest at 129.533 mph.

Kevin Harvick, who was fastest in the morning practice, was third.

Fourth was Kyle Busch.

Justin Allgaier was the top non-Cup regular as he was fifth.

Danica Patrick, back in NASCAR while taking a break from her IndyCar Series job, was 25th fastest at 125.736 mph.

“I guess I should be a little bit happier with it,” she said. “Always nice when quickest lap of the weekend comes in qualifying.”

Her starting position is the best of her career – which was three races heading into New Hampshire.

Star power: Moments after posting the next-to-slowest speed during the opening round of Nationwide Series practice and debriefing with crew chief Tony Eury Jr., Danica Patrick fielded questions from a jam-packed media center at New Hampshire Motor Speedway late Friday morning.

The IndyCar driver discussed a variety of topics, including her learning curve in a stock car, taking a ride around the one-mile oval Thursday night with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and her presence in Saturday’s New England 200 contributing to an increase in ticket sales by more than 30 percent over last year.

“I’m very flattered,” Patrick said, when told about the spike in ticket purchases. “I’m lucky people are curious about me. I’m lucky that I have great fans. I want to do well for them because they came to see something, and I want to show them something.”

Patrick fared better in the afternoon when she notched the 24th-best speed in the final practice session.

Parrott explained: Roush Fenway Racing team owner Jack Roush was very blunt on Friday when discussing why Matt Kenseth’s former crew chief, Todd Parrott, was reassigned in his organization earlier this week and replaced by veteran pit box boss Jimmy Fennig.

“If you said ‘what was the reason we made the crew chief change on the 17 this week,’ I guess there were two things,” Roush said. “We weren’t getting the changes in a practice session that we thought we needed. We were a little slow in the garage area.

“And we had difficulty getting through tech at (Sonoma). Things were found not to be the way NASCAR wanted them.”

Test gripes: Roush believes NASCAR’s testing policy has played a major role in his four Sprint Cup teams being shut out of victory lane this season.

The longtime team owner said he’s had conversations with NASCAR Mike Helton about the sanctioning body modifying the ban on testing.

“He is very interested in what my perspective is and what would help solve, not only my problems, but make it better for everybody in the garage,” Roush said. “He’s indicated that they are looking at opening up testing. He’s not been specific at all about what the options are.

“The thing that I floated would be a system of vouchers that would allow you to test at, maybe, a third of the races at the most. I’d like to see testing opened up for Thursdays or Wednesdays. Or whichever day that preceded the date you can have the race track.

“Bring a dually truck with one additional car. Put your data acquisition and telemetry and things on the car and test whatever you wanted.”

Jimmie wins: Jimmie Johnson’s win in Sonoma on Sunday wasn’t the four-time Sprint Cup champion’s only victory this week.

Johnson was named the winner of the Pepsi Refresh Project on Friday. A $100,000 donation will be made to the Be The Match Foundation, which will provide financial relief to pediatric bone marrow transplant patients.

More than 500,000 fans that voted chose Johnson’s charity over causes represented by two of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

Johnson joked Friday morning that he finally beat Earnhardt, NASCAR’s most popular driver for seven consecutive years, in a contest determined by the vote of fans.

“Yeah, that’s the impressive underlying note in all this,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I’m shocked, excited and thrilled, and can’t thank my fans enough.

“I have been preaching that I have a strong fan base for a long time and I’m glad to see the evidence.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 25 2010
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