Joey Logano wins Vegas pole, Penske claims front row again

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For the second consecutive weekend, Team Penske will lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup field to the green flag. But this time, it’ll be Joey Logano going off from the pole position.

With about one minute remaining in the five-minute final round of knockout qualifying, Logano threw down a lap of 193.278 miles per hour to take the pole for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway away from teammate Brad Keselowski.

It marks Logano’s eighth career Sprint Cup pole.

“I told Brad, ‘It’s one to one now,'” Logano told PRN Radio afterwards. “This whole Penske team is amazing. It’s a privilege to drive these cars. Two weeks in a row starting 1-2, that means a lot.

“Obviously, we haven’t won on Sunday so we have to figure that part out. But we got a lot of speed in our race cars and I’m really excited about it. These guys have been working really hard. It’s just a lot of fun to drive their race car and I can’t wait until Sunday.”

Keselowski, who won the pole last week at Phoenix, took the near-miss for pole in stride.

“I wouldn’t say I let him [win the pole], but he did a good job of executing,” the 2012 Sprint Cup champion said to PRN. “I was just a little bit off on my lap. But it’s good to have two good bullets and [Team Penske] has that with the 2 [Keselowski] and the 22 [Logano] this weekend.”

Clint Bowyer and rookie Austin Dillon will roll off from Row 2, while defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. start from Row 3.

Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the Top 12, which made it into the last of the three qualifying rounds that took place today.

Narrowly missing that Round 3 cut were Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne and Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will start 13th and 14th respectively. Kevin Harvick, who was fastest in yesterday’s test session and won last week at Phoenix, will start behind them in 16th position.

Other notables include: NBC Sports’ own Jeff Burton in 19th, Vegas natives Kyle and Kurt Busch in 20th and 23rd respectively, Danica Patrick in 22nd, Tony Stewart in 24th, Denny Hamlin in 27th and defending Las Vegas race winner Matt Kenseth in 29th.

KOBALT 400 – LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Starting Grid
1. Joey Logano
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Austin Dillon
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Jamie McMurray
8. Aric Almirola
9. Brian Vickers
10. Ryan Newman
11. Carl Edwards
12. Martin Truex Jr.
13. Kasey Kahne
14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
15. Jeff Gordon
16. Kevin Harvick
17. Kyle Larson
18. A.J. Allmendinger
19. Jeff Burton
20. Kyle Busch
21. Paul Menard
22. Danica Patrick
23. Kurt Busch
24. Tony Stewart
25. Greg Biffle
26. David Ragan
27. Denny Hamlin
28. Cole Whitt
29. Matt Kenseth
30. Casey Mears
31. Josh Wise
32. Parker Kligerman
33. David Gilliland
34. Trevor Bayne
35. Michael McDowell
36. Alex Bowman
37. Justin Allgaier
38. Michael Annett
39. Ryan Truex
40. Reed Sorenson
41. Timmy Hill
42. Travis Kvapil
43. Marcos Ambrose

Did Not Qualify
Blake Koch, Landon Cassill, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, J.J. Yeley

2017 PRI Show post-weekend notebook

Rahal and Bell's Chris Wheeler. Photo: IndyCar
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The 2017 edition of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show is in the books for another year. Here’s some notes we gathered from the event at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

While INDYCAR did not have a booth at this year’s show, there were still some interesting Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires nuggets to emerge.

RAHAL RUNNING REV

On Thursday, Graham Rahal was named as honorary chair of the Rev Indy charity event, held before the month of May’s on-track activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway really gets going. The event is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, which grew its relationship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this past year.

The kickoff event was held at legendary St. Elmo’s, at its 1933 Lounge upstairs, with some samples of the food that will be served. Particularly noteworthy was St. Elmo’s trademark shrimp cocktail, which even caught out some local reporters on its heat…

PAGENAUD IN FINE FORM

Pagenaud meets the media. Photo: IndyCar

Further breakouts from him will come in the following days, but Simon Pagenaud was in very good spirits when meeting a small group of reporters on Thursday. The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion mentioned a small relief that he didn’t have to go through the ringer of the champion’s postseason media tour in the days after Sonoma, as he won the season finale. That can be draining, he said, but it allowed him to get refreshed. Since Sonoma, he raced at Petit Le Mans, where he drove with Team Penske’s one-off Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 car, he went back home to France before coming back to the U.S. for a mix of testing and other year-end commitments.

Of the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit, Pagenaud said it’s close to the initial Dallara DW12 chassis at its outset, although hailed the better and more balanced weight distribution of the new kit.

He also said it will be a different team dynamic without having Helio Castroneves there full-time. Castroneves, he said, kept all three of Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Will Power grounded and all in good temperament at the same time. Pagenaud made an interesting point that with each of the three full-time drivers all at the same point in their careers – they all have one championship and none has an Indianapolis 500 victory yet – none has the upper hand, and there isn’t the “aura” of Castroneves’ three ‘500 wins hanging over their head.

On top of that, Pagenaud cracked several jokes and hailed his involvement as part of the “Penske Games” social media competition the team created. In some respects, Pagenaud hailed his own lack of success there to generate more notoriety!

SPM’S SMASH, RETURN, THEN PRE-SEBRING SCRAMBLE

The 2018 Dallara UAK got its first crash test – particularly inadvertently – by James Hinchcliffe during testing last week at Phoenix International Raceway (soon to be ISM Raceway). The team was still in the process of diagnosing what caused a crash at Turn 3 of the 1-mile oval, an odd place to have an impact.

What it’s meant was the car, which is short on spare parts at the moment, had to make it back to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indianapolis shop and get rebuilt over a 48-hour period in advance of this week’s final round of 2017 testing at Sebring International Raceway’s short course. Testing can run through December 14 before the holiday blackout, and before testing shifts from manufacturer testing to team testing after the new year.

SCHMIDT’S SHANK SYNC-UP FURTHER DETAILS

Schmidt, Steve Eriksen (HPD), Harvey and Shank. Photo: IndyCar

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt was present at Michael Shank’s combination IndyCar and sports car announcements on Friday, which confirmed further details of Jack Harvey’s program for next season. It’s meant to be a three-year deal, and will begin with the six races Harvey will run in 2018. Will Anderson, who has been an assistant engineer with SPM for several years after joining from Dale Coyne Racing, will be Harvey’s race engineer.

SPM will loan a chassis to Shank for testing in January before Shank’s team receives its chassis in February, and that’s an interesting point to note. Schmidt said SPM, which saw its proposed deal with Calmels Sport for next year’s Indianapolis 500 fall through, could still run a third in-house SPM car for the 2018 Indianapolis 500 beyond the two full-time entries and the MSR/Shank car for Harvey.

But Schmidt’s long-term belief and relationship with Harvey helped make the move a reality, as Harvey drove two really strong years with the team in Indy Lights.

“His timeline is our timeline; we were not going to do it for only one year,” Schmidt told NBC Sports. “Jack has been a part of this team for several years and our job is to help him and Mike continue to grow in their IndyCar careers.”

FURTHER TBA’S GETTING REVEALED SOON?

Gathered around the Bell booth in Indy. Photo: IndyCar

If the rumor mill is to be believed, next week could see at least one if not both of the two known outstanding TBA slots at Dale Coyne Racing (No. 19 Honda) and Ed Carpenter Racing (No. 20 Chevrolet for road and street courses) get revealed.

We spoke to Carpenter at the PRI Show who confirmed the No. 20 car’s road and street course car is “close” to being filled, and is down to just two potential candidates. Asked when he wanted to announce, Carpenter deadpanned, “Last week!”

If you know the names of the free agents that are already out there, you pretty much know who’s in the frame for these two seats.

Carpenter has one more round of testing this week at Sebring. The team has been busy with testing at multiple tracks, and has moved into its new shop on Georgetown Rd. from its previous location near IMS in Speedway, Ind.

BUSY TIMES AT BELL BOOTH WITH INDY, MRTI DRIVERS

Both Carpenter and Spencer Pigot were among a bevy of IndyCar and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires drivers on the Bell Racing U.S.A. stage during the weekend. Others included Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Conor Daly, Zach Veach, Jack Harvey and Pippa Mann, and MRTI veterans Aaron Telitz, Ayla Agren, Juan Piedrahita and Colton Herta.

Additionally, Bell announced it will be opening a pro shop in Speedway. It’s busy times for the helmet manufacturer but one that is held in high regard in the open-wheel and sports car communities.

GOOD TIMES FOR DUSICK’S CHARITY EVENT

Another of the quickly-becoming-a-PRI-staple type events is the “Racers Know Dave Dusick” charity fundraiser, supported by Cooper Tires, which this year supported the Riley Children’s Foundation. That foundation supports Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana’s only comprehensive hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of kids.

A further recap can be found via Dusick’s @IKnowDaveDusick Twitter account; Dusick is a veteran behind-the-scenes member of the racing community, primarily known for his Race Track Engineering business and a member of race control groups in various series. A tweet from Alexander Rossi is below.

CALLAWAY CONFIRMATION GIVES PWC NEEDED SHOT IN THE ARM

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC

Pirelli World Challenge got three good pieces of news in a two-day period last week, with first the pair of Wednesday announcements that K-PAX Racing would switch to Bentley’s Continental GT3 models and Robinson Racing would run a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT4s in the GTS class.

Confirmation of Callaway’s team program for GT in 2018, with Michael Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz the two drivers revealed there, was an added bonus. The striking Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R was unveiled in full, with comments from Reeves Callaway and WC Vision head Greg Gill, with other series insiders present. Aided by the addition of Erin Gahagan as team manager, who has recent PWC experience with EFFORT Racing, that should help Callaway in its entry into the championship. She will continue as team manager for the Tequila Patron ESM team with its Nissan Onroak DPi in IMSA for another season as well.

Cooper’s confirmation keeps him in another GM model after developing into a top-line GT driver the last couple seasons in one of the factory Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs, and after winning a GTS championship in a Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R prior to that. Keilwitz, an ADAC GT Masters veteran, will be new to the U.S. but should learn quickly as other European converts tend to do.

“In a word, hallelujah,” was Gill’s immediate take at the presentation of the new car.

PWC also held its annual “State of the Series” meeting for competitors on Friday afternoon. A combination of the usual marketing, competition and communication updates were revealed to competitors. Some more intriguing elements from that should be revealed at a later date.