Brad Keselowski leads Sprint Cup final practice at Pocono

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Brad Keselowski ended Kurt Busch’s stay atop the Sprint Cup practice charts by turning in the fastest lap in final practice for tomorrow’s 400 at Pocono Raceway.

The Team Penske driver led the way in “Happy Hour” with a lap of 178.547 mph in the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford. Keselowski will now head back to Iowa Speedway to compete for Penske in tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250.

His lap was just enough to claim top honors over Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, whose best lap of 178.536 mph was three one-hundredths of a second off Keselowski.

Gordon figures to be a threat in tomorrow’s main event from the fifth starting position, but said that he’s still searching for a bit of speed that can help him in the event of a restart.

When the Sprint Cup Series visited Pocono in June, Gordon finished eighth but was hampered by not being able to retain track position on several restarts.

“We just need a little bit of that get-up speed,” Gordon told ESPN. “We saw some guys that could really take off fast and we know that restarts are gonna be crucial again. That’s kind of what hurt us the last time we were here, so we’re just searching for that in fine-tuning.

“The car has been awesome and we’re really consistent. Our fastest laps are Laps 3 and 4 [in a run], and we’d like our first lap to be a little bit better so we can really make up some spots on the restarts.”

Kyle Busch’s lap of 178.246 mph in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was good for third-quickest in the session. “Rowdy” was followed by Kevin Harvick (178.154) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (177.830).

Harvick also had the best consecutive 10-lap average, while Earnhardt cracked the Top 5 despite dealing with a vibration issue on his No. 88 car.


NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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