The Team Penske tandem of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will lead the Sprint Cup field to the green flag on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway after taking the top two spots in the second and final round of knock-out qualifying.
Keselowski posted a lap of 25.828 seconds in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, narrowly nipping Logano’s best lap of 25.850 seconds. Logano was fastest in Round One, which saw the 12 fastest drivers go into the ten-minute final round (those 12 competitors had their Round One times reset).
“I’m really proud of Team Penske – they put a lot of effort into being the best we can here after a long 2013 and I think we did a heck of a job,” Keselowski told Motor Racing Network afterwards.
“Both cars 1-2? That’s a heck of an effort and something I’m very proud of for both Joey and the 22 team and obviously my team here on the 2 car…That’s a good start, now we’ve got to make the most of it come Sunday.”
Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson will roll off from Row 2, followed by Daytona 500 champion and points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle in Row 3.
Rookie Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are in Row 4, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch are in Row 5, and Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin are in Row 6.
The session featured one incident in Round One involving Justin Allgaier, who crashed in Turn 3.
“I had a good lap going there and unfortunately, I got down into [Turn] 3 and it started to get away,” the Sprint Cup rookie told Fox. “I tried to save it as much as I could but unfortunately here at Phoenix, there’s not a whole lot of room to get out of trouble. It was my mistake – I was trying to get too much from that lap there.”
Josh Wise, Landon Cassill, and Dave Blaney failed to make the race.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.