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Keselowski On Loudon Pole

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 12 2013

Brad Keselowski was the fastest qualifier in New Hampshire. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

LOUDON, N.H. – Brad Keselowski and his team have been waiting for something to go right.

For the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, what he hopes is a turning point in a very disappointing season came Friday in qualifying for the Camping World RV Sales 301.

Keselowski, driving for Penske Racing, was the fastest of 10 drivers who got outpaced the old New Hampshire Motor Speedway track record, turning a lap of 135.922 mph.

The previous mark of 135.232 was set by Ryan Newman in July 2011.

Keselowski goes into Sunday’s race 13th in the standings, trailing 10th-place Tony Stewart by 11 points in the battle for a spot in the Chase for the championship.

What’s worse is that Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford has not been very competitive at times this season. He has no wins and only eight top-10 finishes in the first 18 races.

So, winning his first pole of the season and the third of his career is cause for a jolt of optimism.

“There’s a sense of urgency, but not a sense of panic,’’ Keselowski said. “There’s a difference between the two. There’s still two months of racing before the Chase and we’ve got fast enough cars to get the job done.

“I don’t feel like I nailed a perfect lap, but my guys carried me with that car. Hopefully, it will be this fast on Sunday when it really counts.’’

Series leader Jimmie Johnson, a five-time Cup champion, was second on Friday at 135.902, but his speed was disallowed after a post-qualifying inspection found his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was too low in front on both sides. Johnson will start from the rear of the 43-car field.

Kurt Busch, who qualified at 135.835, moved up to second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 135.786.

Other drivers faster than the old record were Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton.

Morgan Shepherd, who at 71 will be the oldest driver to ever start at Cup race, qualified 42nd.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 12 2013
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