Brad Keselowski picked up his 13th career Monster Energy Cup pole on Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Keselowski was the first car on the track and posted a lap of 193.680mph (27.881-seconds). Kyle Larson followed (193.161mph) but couldn’t top Keselowski.
“We’re off to a good start for sure with the Miller Lite Ford,” Keselowski said. “It feels good to get an early-season pole to go with our win. With the way the segments play out and stages and all this stuff, you really need to start up front to have a shot at winning as you go down the line of those stages. This helps a ton and I’m grateful for the speed we had and I’m ready for the race on Sunday. I love Vegas.”
For Keselowski, it was his first pole at the 1.5-mile track.
Martin Truex Jr., who was one of the last cars to take a time was second with a speed of 193.458mph.
“We just missed it by a little bit tonight,” Truex said. Just needed to be a little better in 1 and 2.”
Ryan Blaney, who was the ninth of 12 cars on the track in the final round missed his Penske teammates time by 0.039-seconds.
“I got tight in 3 and 4,” Blaney said after completing a lap of 193.410mph. He’ll start third in Sunday’s Kobalt 400.
Kenseth, Larson and Joey Logano posted the top-six speeds. Kasey Kahne, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top 12.
With less than six minutes remaining in the second round, Ryan Blaney bested birthday boy Matt Kenseth with a speed of 194.147mph.
Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne were among the top-six qualifiers in second round.
Larson and the Team Penske duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano went out early in the 10-minute session. The No. 42 Chevy picked up the top spot with a lap of 193.500mph. Two minutes later, it was Kenseth atop the chart with a lap of 193.666mph.
Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones, Logano and Daniel Suarez all transferred to the final round.
Blaney bumped Kevin Harvick in the process. Harvick made a second attempt at qualifying but neither he or the other Stewart-Haas Racing Fords advanced to the final round.
Jimmie Johnson, who has four wins at LVMS, rolls off 16th on Sunday.
“I’m definitely disappointed with that,” Johnson said. “We have a very sharp Kobalt Tools Chevrolet and a very fast Kobalt Tools Chevrolet. On my first lap, the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) was getting up to speed on the inside lane and I just took my eyes off exactly where I needed to be and I missed that white line by half a foot. And then by the time you roll through the center, it’s half a car width and I left a couple tenths on the table as a result. So, I’m frustrated with that.
“There’s nothing anybody did wrong, but I just hate that I missed it by that small little margin; especially with the practice session we had and that first round speed that we had. So, I’m disappointed. But this is going to be a great race. I think these hotter temperatures and this low downforce package and different tire are going to put on a great show on Sunday. I would love to win here at my sponsor’s event. So, hopefully we can get that done.”
Kyle Busch posted the top speed in the first round of qualifying with a lap of 194.028mph.
Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Joey Logano rounded out the top-six on time followed by Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
Kyle Larson set the pace early in the session with a speed of 192.733mph. At the 10-minute mark, Truex Jr., who led first practice, topped the No. 42 car with a lap of 192.857mph. Seconds later, it was Keselowski atop the speed chart (193.389mph). With eight minutes remaining, Kyle Busch vaulted over Keselowski.
There was a little last-minute drama at the end of the first session after AJ Allmendinger was bumped by his JTG Daugherty teammate Chris Buescher. Before time expired, interim crew chief Ernie Cope sent the No. 47 Chevy back on track. Allmendinger nailed a 28.316-second lap and bested Buescher by .020-seconds.
“I like that the cars accelerate a lot on the straightaway,” said Keselowski of the new aerodynamic package. “I think that’s really cool. They have like 800-some horsepower. You want to feel it kick in and when you have to slow down in the corners, you can really feel the bumps. And you have to roll off down the straightaway, too, so you really feel like you’re driving.”
Thirty-nine competitors participated in the Monster Energy Cup time trials at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In pre-qualifying inspections Friday , the cars of Truex and Kahne failed templates twice and will each driver will lose 15 minutes of practice on Saturday morning.
Jones’ car failed the weights and measures station three times in pre-qualifying inspection and will lose 15 minutes of practice on Saturday and also lost pit stall selection for Sunday’s race.