Keselowski, Logano make Penske front row for Phoenix

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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.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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