Brad Keselowski wins pole for Sunday’s Chase race at New Hampshire

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Everything continued to go Brad Keselowski’s way this afternoon during Sprint Cup qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The 2012 Cup champion, who advanced to the Chase’s Contender Round with his win last weekend, set a new NHMS track record to claim his fifth pole of the season.

With a little more than five minutes to go in qualifying, Keselowski turned in a lap of 27.090 seconds (140.598 mph) that was too quick for anyone to beat out.

He and non-Chase competitor Jamie McMurray (27.121 seconds, 140.437 mph) will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Sylvania 300.

“I try not to get caught up in statements, I’m just trying to go out there and do our job,” Keselowski told Fox Sports. “The Penske team has done phenomenal this season, and it’s great to keep it rolling.

“Loudon’s always been one of my favorite tracks, and we’ve won a couple poles here before. But this one is a little extra special with everything that’s going on and going through the Chase and what not. I’m ready to get running tomorrow and hopefully, we’ll get another win.”

With his spot in the Contender Round already set, Keselowski can race without worry. His front-row counterpart, McMurray, on the other hand will be out to steal some attention from him and the rest of the Chasers.

It’s something that he’s done before. While he himself has never been a Chaser, he has won several Chase races in his career – the most recent of those coming last year at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I thought our car was really good in race trim,” McMurray said. “We started with a similar set-up to what we ran here in the first race. We ran really well, we didn’t finish well, and the car was pretty good.

“[Crew chief] Keith [Rodden] made it a little bit better, so I’m looking forward to not the first [Saturday] practice at 9 a.m. ET, but the second practice when some rubber gets laid down and it’s hotter. It’s gonna be 20 degrees hotter than it is today on Sunday, but our car’s been good from the time we’ve unloaded it.”

In all, nine Chasers will be in the first six rows on Sunday’s grid:

Brad Keselowski – 1st
Kevin Harvick – 3rd
Denny Hamlin – 4th
Kyle Busch – 5th
Jimmie Johnson – 6th
Joey Logano – 7th
Carl Edwards – 8th
Ryan Newman – 9th
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 11th

As for the seven Chasers that did not crack the final qualifying round, that group was led by Jeff Gordon, who will go off from 13th for Sunday’s race.

“I’d say it was a little bit loose the first run out, but I felt like I got everything out of it,” Gordon said after missing the final round by eight one-hundredths of a second. “We just don’t have enough speed, that’s the bottom line.

“I think we’ll be a lot better in the race, but in qualifying – we went through the same process earlier in the year here, where we took two tries to get in and just snuck our way in [the next round] and we ended up ninth or 10th. I think that’s about where we are now.”

The other Chasers that did not advance include: Kurt Busch in 15th, Matt Kenseth in 16th, Kasey Kahne in 17th, Aric Almirola in 21st, Greg Biffle in 26th, and A.J. Allmendinger in 27th.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT NEW HAMPSHIRE – Sylvania 300
Qualifying results

1. *2-Brad Keselowski
2. 1-Jamie McMurray
3. *4-Kevin Harvick
4. *11-Denny Hamlin
5. *18-Kyle Busch
6. *48-Jimmie Johnson
7. *22-Joey Logano
8. *99-Carl Edwards
9. *31-Ryan Newman
10. 42-Kyle Larson
11. *88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. 55-Brian Vickers
13. *24-Jeff Gordon
14. 15-Clint Bowyer
15. *41-Kurt Busch
16. *20-Matt Kenseth
17. *5-Kasey Kahne
18. 10-Danica Patrick
19. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20. 9-Marcos Ambrose
21. *43-Aric Almirola
22. 3-Austin Dillon
23. 27-Paul Menard
24. 51-Justin Allgaier
25. 13-Casey Mears
26. *16-Greg Biffle
27. *47-A.J. Allmendinger
28. 14-Tony Stewart
29. 34-David Ragan
30. 40-Landon Cassill
31. 26-Cole Whitt
32. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
33. 83-Clay Rogers
34. 38-David Gilliland
35. 23-Alex Bowman
36. 33-David Stremme
37. 36-Reed Sorenson
38. 7-Michael Annett
39. 98-Josh Wise
40. 83-Travis Kvapil
41. 77-Corey Lajoie
42. 66-Mike Wallace
43. 32-Timmy Hill
*CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP COMPETITORS

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”