Allen Lessels on Motor Sports: Keselowski wins NHMS Sprint Cup pole; points leader Johnson penalized
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) reacts after winning the pole position in qualifying for the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion owns a healthy lead in the point standings again this year, but will have his work cut out for him on Sunday in the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He will start 43rd in the race.
“The way the heights are, there’s not a lot of room for error and we just had a little error,” said Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, after the sanction was announced.
Keselowski led a pack of nine drivers, not counting Johnson, who turned in a lap faster than the previous track qualifying mark.
He’ll try to match what Ryan Newman did when he set the previous record of 135.232 mph in July of 2011. Newman won that race from the pole.Kurt Busch moved up to the second qualifying spot when Johnson dropped down and will start beside Keselowski.
Eight races, beginning Sunday at New Hampshire, remain before the Chase begins at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 15.
Keselowski sits just outside the Chase this morning.
He is in 13th in the standings, two points out of 12th and 11 points behind Tony Stewart in 10th.
Four of the top six starters on Sunday are in the top 10 in points.Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is fifth in points, qualified third and Kyle Busch, who is seventh, was fourth. Jeff Gordon (14th in points) was fifth and Carl Edwards (third) was sixth. Denny Hamlin (26th), Kasey Kahne (12th), Jeff Burton (21st) and Juan Pablo Montoya (23rd) fill out the top 10 in the starting grid.
“We’ll have to be aggressive,” said Knaus, his crew chief. “The thing about it is, it’s a very short race. Three hundred laps. You’ve got to get in there and get going and be aggressive. I look forward to the challenge. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” .