Brad Keselowski saved the best for last in NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
With less than 30 seconds remaining, Keselowski knocked Kyle Busch off the pole position for today’s Sta-Green 200 (3:30 p.m. ET, check local listings) and then improved on his final qualifying lap for good measure.
The Team Penske driver officially claimed his 17th career Nationwide pole with a lap of 130.304 mph.
“We just missed it by a little bit on our first run during the second [round], and it didn’t seem like anything was going our way in the first [round]”, Keselowski told Fox Sports.
“We had someone spin out when we were running our lap, but the guys kept working on the car and gave me more opportunities, and we were able to capitalize at the end. I’m really proud of their effort.”
Keselowski added that everyone on the No. 22 team wanted to take another crack at the pole late in the second round.
“We all were thinking the same thing and that’s what a great team does,” he said. “They jell and they think the same thing together.”
In five Nationwide starts this season, Keselowski has won once (Las Vegas) and earned Top-3 finishes in all of them, including three second-place results.
Two more Cup regulars, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson, will make up the second row for today’s race, followed by Nationwide regulars Brian Scott and Chase Elliott in Row 3. Paul Menard and Trevor Bayne are in Row 4, and Chris Buescher and Dylan Kwasniewski are in Row 5.
Nationwide points leader Regan Smith, who leads Elliott Sadler by 12 points going into today, is starting 12th on the outside of Row 6 with Brendan Gaughan. Sadler did not make the second round of qualifying, and will start 16th.
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.