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

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.