Brad Keselowski goes out last but winds up first in qualifying at Michigan International Speedway
NASCAR saved the best for last in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Michigan International Speedway on Friday. Brad Keselowski was last to make a qualifying attempt in the 38-driver session to set the grid for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400, and with a 37.801-second/190.471 mph lap, the Rochester Hills, Mich., native claimed the pole starting spot at his home track. The latest pole is Keselowski’s second of the 2019 season and the second of his Cup Series career at MIS.
“This race track means a lot to me for a lot of reasons,” Keselowski said. "With family and friends and being my home track, closest to my home, you just want to impress. You want to do a good job in front of your family. You want to kind of show them what you are made of and make them proud. That does put a lot of pressure on yourself, and I think most drivers would say they fall into that category. At the end, I look at it now and I made my Cup debut here 10 years ago and I look at those times now and I think of how fortunate I was to make it in the sport. It was a much more difficult time to be a rookie in Cup than it is now. But I am still thankful I had that opportunity and could make it to this position.”
When Keselowski ran his pole-winning lap, he knocked Kevin Harvick from the provisional pole position. With a second-place starting spot for Harvick, Ford swept the front row of the race starting grid.
“It was a good day for our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang,” Harvick said. "Track position is really important everywhere we go. Coming to Michigan, it is of the utmost importance, so this is a really good start to the weekend for us.”
Other drivers to temporarily hold the provisional pole during the qualifying session included Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and Hendrick Motorsports trio Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and William Byron.
“There’s not a lot of driver skill or driver anything involved in that one,” Bowman said. "You just hold it wide open, and it’s really a showcase of the car that the team brought. I’m very proud of that. I’m excited to go racing. We had such a good race car here earlier this year. And we’re starting toward the front, and it will be a good one.”
After the in-team game of knocking each other from atop the scoring pylon, Hendrick drivers Byron and Bowman wound up second and third for a row-two sweep. Elliott was shuffled to sixth by the end of the qualifying session, and the fourth HMS driver, Jimmie Johnson, was 10th to put all four Hendrick Motorsports cars within the top-10 starting positions.
“For us to qualify third is really good,” Byron said. "We started the day here kind of 11th to 13th, so to make that improvement is really good for us. I feel great about it, honestly. I feel like the guys have worked super hard, and we just need a good weekend. I think if we start up front we’ll have a really good shot at it.”
Although Dillon spent some time on the provisional pole during qualifying, he wound up with the 37th starting position, as his qualifying time was disallowed by NASCAR. Both his #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and the #8 RCR Chevy of his teammate Daniel Hemric were found to have alternators that didn’t properly fire. Hemric wound up with the last starting spot.
Clint Bowyer qualified fifth to start next to Elliott in the third row. Other top-10 qualifiers included Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Logano in seventh and eighth and Paul Menard in ninth.
Toyota was shut out of the top-10 in qualifying. The highest-qualifying Toyota driver was Denny Hamlin in 14th.