Keselowski, Gordon on front row for Richmond Sprint Cup race

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For the 15th time this season, a Team Penske driver either will sit on the pole or on the outside pole, as Brad Keselowski earned the top qualifying spot in Friday’s qualifying session at Richmond International Raceway.

Keselowski covered the ¾-mile track with a top speed of 126.618 mph in preparation for Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400.

“The car is really fast, that’s what makes the difference,” Keselowski told ESPN. “You have to have a little luck and we had a big cloud cover there for a few minutes. I’m surprised no one else took advantage of it.

“We could win the 400th for the Captain (team owner Roger Penske). Boy, would I love to get that. … We’d like to get a win in us before we enter the Chase and have the top seed outright.”

Jeff Gordon will start on the outside of the front row, being the only other driver to exceed 126 mph in qualifying (126.039 mph).

“It’s been a tough day for us,” Gordon said. “These conditions are tough. It’s hot and slick out there and you’re trying to adjust your car for a night race and know you’re going to be qualifying late afternoon and early evening. I’m real proud of that.

“I’m happy that we’re on the front row, but at the same time, I still see how far behind we are behind the 2 car (Keselowski) and feel we have a race car that can compete with those guys and try to make that happen tomorrow night.”

Jimmie Johnson qualified third (125.898 mph), followed by Kevin Harvick (125.857), Joey Logano (125.663), Clint Bowyer (125.634), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (125.476), Kyle Larson (125.081), Kurt Busch (124.913), Carl Edwards (124.665), Denny Hamlin (124.562) and Ryan Newman was 12th-fastest (124.464).

Other qualifying notes:

* Danica Patrick just barely missed making the final 12-driver second qualifying session, falling short by .020 of a second.

“When you’re that close, you think of all the little things,” Patrick said. “I haven’t been very good here, I think I used the word at Atlanta ‘sucked’ … it is frustrating being so close.

“This is much better than we’ve been before. I feel like I can have a strong night (in the race).”

Patrick is coming off a Sprint Cup career-best finish last Sunday night at Atlanta, where she finished sixth.

* Tony Stewart, who qualified 12th at Atlanta, struggled in qualifying at RIR. He’ll start 19th.

The only way Stewart, Patrick and 12 other drivers in the top-30 without wins thus far this season can make the Chase is to win Saturday night’s race.

* Ryan Truex and David Ragan never took a qualifying lap because they couldn’t get their cars through inspection in time.

* Clay Rogers was the only driver who failed to qualify of the 44 drivers that were on the entry list.

Here’s how Saturday’s starting lineup looks:

Row 1 Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon

Row 2 Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick

Row 3 Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer

Row 4 Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson

Row 5 Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards

Row 6 Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman

Row 7 Danica Patrick, Jamie McMurray

Row 8 Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth

Row 9 Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers

Row 10 Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch

Row 11 Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears

Row 12 AJ Allmendinger, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Row 13 Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola

Row 14 Justin Allgaier, Austin Dillon

Row 15 Martin Truex Jr., David Gilliland

Row 16 David Stremme, Reed Sorenson

Row 17 Marcos Ambrose, Landon Cassill

Row 18 Cole Whitt, Josh Wise

Row 19 Travis Kvapil, J.J. Yeley

Row 20 Mike Bliss, Michael Annett

Row 21 Joe Nemechek, David Ragan

Row 22 Ryan Truex

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Karam, Daly get IndyCar rides with Carlin for Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – Sage Karam returns for the second-straight race and Conor Daly is back for another race with Carlin Racing at this weekend’s Iowa 300 NTT IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway.

For Karam, it’s his third start of the 2019 season and his second straight with Carlin. In his five starts at Iowa Speedway dating back to 2010, Karam has never finished outside of the top three, recording four wins (USF2000 – 2010, Indy Pro 2000 – 2011 and 2012, Indy Lights – 2013) and scoring his first NTT IndyCar Series podium in 2015 with a third-place finish.

“I’m really excited to be back again this weekend with Carlin and SmartStop Self Storage for the Iowa 300. Iowa Speedway has always been a good track for me in the past, so I’m really looking forward to getting back to work there,” Karam said. “Coming off of a very productive weekend in Toronto, I’m looking forward to applying everything I’ve learned and continuing to work with the team to get the best results possible. A huge thank you to everyone at Carlin and SmartStop Self Storage for a great opportunity to race at one of my favorite tracks.”

Daly is back in a second Carlin entry. Earlier this year, the popular driver finished 11th for Carlin in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. At Iowa, he will drive the team’s No. 23 Gallagher Chevrolet.

Daly finished 10th in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge for Andretti Autosport.

Daly raced at Iowa in 2016 for Dale Coyne Racing (finishing 21st) and in 2017 for A.J. Foyt Racing (finishing 19th).

The combination gives Carlin two more drivers to gather additional feedback on the car. Max Chilton remains the team’s primary driver but announced recently that he will forego all oval races to concentrate on street and road courses.

That created opportunities for Karam and Daly.

“We were very impressed with Sage’s steady progression throughout the Toronto race weekend and his willingness to learn and adapt,” said Carlin Team Principal Trevor Carlin. “The fact that he hadn’t been on a street course since 2015 and was still able to come right out of the gate confident and constantly improving every session was extremely impressive.

“The SmartStop Self Storage Chevrolet looked great out on track and their group has been a pleasure to work with, so we couldn’t be more pleased to have them back this weekend in Iowa. Sage has done really well in Iowa in the past, so hopefully we can use his experience and our past success at Iowa Speedway to come away with a good result for the team and our partners at SmartStop Self Storage.”

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway will take place on Saturday, July 20th at 7:15 pm ET and will be televised on NBCSN.