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.
“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
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
Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence is a proud Texan who hates to lose. But if there’s one person Torrence likely doesn’t mind seeing win if he can’t reach the winner’s circle – particularly if it’s on home turf – it’s father Billy.
Steve was cheering his father on as the latter boosted his own championship hopes Sunday by winning the Top Fuel category in the final eliminations of the 34th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in the Dallas suburb of Ennis, Texas.
Billy Torrence (3.775 seconds at 319.67 mph) defeated Jordan Vandergriff (4.299 seconds, 246.03 mph in his first career final round) for his fourth win of the season, including his second win in the first four races of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. With the fifth Top Fuel triumph of his career, the elder Torrence moved into fourth in the Top Fuel standings, just 71 points behind his son with two races remaining in the Countdown.
Even though Billy’s son lost in the opening round Sunday, he still leads the Top Fuel standings, holding a 33-point lead over second-ranked Doug Kalitta and a 46-point lead over third-ranked and the weekend’s No. 1 qualifier, Brittany Force.
Sunday marked the third consecutive win in this year’s playoffs for the father-son combo and their second straight triumph at Dallas (Steve won there last year as part of an unprecedented sweep of the six-race Countdown en route to the championship).
“It’s home turf and we love to race here,” Billy Torrence said after visiting the winner’s circle. “We’ve raced here our whole career and we have a lot of fans here. There’s no better place to race than Dallas, Texas, and we did have the best car today.
“It has been very humbling, and we’ve been very blessed and fortunate to have the success we’ve had. We’ve got a great group of guys on both cars and our success is just a testament to the work these guys do. I think that we’re probably the second-best car in the country, with Steve having the best. We’ve had a stellar season.”
In Funny Car: Matt Hagan (3.909 seconds at 327.59 mph) roared to his third win of the season – as well as his third at the Motorplex – and the 32nd victory of his career, defeating Bob Tasca (3.928 seconds at 323.12 mph). Hagan also moved up to fourth in the standings.
“We had a great race car today,” Hagan said. “Qualifying was pretty tough, but to turn on four win lights was pretty huge. (Tasca) is a great driver and those guys are good, so I’m glad things turned out the way they did.
“We’re just trying to keep some momentum going, keep doing our job and control what we can control. It was a pretty special weekend. We’ve just got to keep digging and keep working. I love this sport and it’s been a big part of my life for 10 years. I knew (crew chief Dickie Venables) was tuned in and you could see he was confident, and that builds confidence in me.”
Robert Hight continues to lead the Funny Car standings, followed by Jack Beckman (70 points back) and No. 1 qualifier John Force (74 points back).
In Pro Stock: Greg Anderson (6.609 seconds at 209.75 mph) defeated longtime rival Jeg Coughlin Jr. (6.610 seconds at 207.56 mph) to earn his third win of the season, fifth of his career at the Motorplex and 94th of his overall Pro Stock career.
It was the 102nd time Anderson and Coughlin, who qualified No. 1 for the weekend, have met each other in a race, including the 21st time in the final round.
“We’ve had so many titanic clashes with so much on the line, and I knew it would be close,” said Anderson, who is seventh in points. “It’s a total team effort and that’s what it takes to win a national event in Pro Stock right now. You’ve got to have perfection every time out there.
“We made a lot of changes this week and we hit on it. It showed it on Saturday and I knew coming into today we had a chance. Now it’s a matter of if I can drive the car well enough. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this thing because everybody right now can beat everybody else.”
Erica Enders held on to her lead in the category, but saw the margin over second-ranked Matt Hartford drop to only 28 points. Coughlin is third (-65 points) and Anderson is seventh (-99 points).
In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Jerry “Alligator Farmer” Savoie (6.881 seconds at 195.90 mph) took a big step towards potentially earning his second PSM championship in the last three seasons, defeating three-time champion Eddie Krawiec (6.901 seconds at 195.62 mph).
It was Savoie’s third win of the season and 12th of his career. It’s also his second win in the first four playoff races and fifth straight appearance in the final round at the Motorplex. He’s now third in the PSM standings, 94 points behind five-time champion Andrew Hines.
“It was a great day and we knew we had a good bike coming in,” Savoie said. “We said if we held our composure we could win this thing. For the most part, tracks favor certain riders and we’ve been blessed here. It’s a great place and today was great.
“Bottom line, I want a championship just as bad as anybody else, so whoever is in my way I’m going to do everything I can to try and beat them. I felt good and we’ve got a great team. To me, this win gives you more hope and means a lot. This gives you that window of opportunity where you could win a championship again.”
NOTES: Only two races remain this season: Las Vegas in two weeks (Oct. 31 – Nov. 3) and Pomona, California four weeks from now (Nov. 14 – 17).
TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Jordan Vandergriff; 3. Brittany Force; 4. Austin Prock; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Antron Brown; 7. Shawn Reed; 8. Lee Callaway; 9. Steve Torrence; 10. Terry McMillen; 11. Doug Kalitta; 12. Kebin Kinsley; 13. Mike Salinas; 14. Cameron Ferre; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Richie Crampton.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. John Force; 4. Robert Hight; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 6. J.R. Todd; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Shawn Langdon; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Paul Lee; 12. Blake Alexander; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Jeff Arend; 16. Jonnie Lindberg.
PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Deric Kramer; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Chris McGaha; 7. Aaron Stanfield; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Jason Line; 10. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 11. Val Smeland; 12. Kenny Delco; 13. Shane Tucker; 14. Fernando Cuadra; 15. Alex Laughlin; 16. Richie Stevens.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Eddie Krawiec; 3. Angelle Sampey; 4. Andrew Hines; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Scotty Pollacheck; 8. Matt Smith; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Ryan Oehler; 11. Angie Smith; 12. Hector Arana Jr; 13. Kelly Clontz; 14. Michael Ray; 15. Jianna Salinas.
FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 2,437; 2. Jack Beckman, 2,367; 3. John Force, 2,363; 4. Matt Hagan, 2,325; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,315; 6. Ron Capps, 2,302; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,274; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,243; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,239; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,188.
PRO STOCK: 1. Erica Enders, 2,395; 2. Matt Hartford, 2,367; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 2,330; 4. Jason Line, 2,327; 5. Deric Kramer, 2,323; 6. Bo Butner, 2,321; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,296; 8. Alex Laughlin, 2,239; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,217; 10. Val Smeland, 2,124.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,464; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,383; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,370; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,365; 5. Matt Smith, 2,297; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,274; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,248; 8. Angie Smith, 2,181; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,159; 10. Hector Arana, 2,128.