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

Wickens undergoes successful surgery

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Just days after successfully piloting an Acura NSX around Toronto’s Exhibition Palace street course, Robert Wickens has undergone a successful surgery operation to remove hardware from his leg after a previous infection had returned, the 30-year-old Canadian revealed on social media Wednesday.

“Spinal Cord injury has such highs and lows,” Wickens said in an Instagram post prior to surgery. “One day I’m in the NSX driving the hand controlled car, and the next day I’m getting ready for surgery. Life is so unpredictable!”

Fortunately, the surgery went well for Wickens, as he later announced that his surgery had no complications. Wickens will now start six weeks of IV antibiotics before he returns to a full rehab program.

“One piece (there’s a lot) of the hardware had an infected screw,” Wickens wrote. “All hardware in my leg was removed.”

Wickens is currently recovering from spinal fracture sustained in an IndyCar crash at Pocono Raceway last August. Since his crash and diagnosis, Wickens has openly documented his recovery process through social media.

Wickens returned to the INDYCAR paddock for the first time since his accident at the season-opener in St. Petersburg in March, and his laps behind the wheel in Toronto last weekend marked the first time he had driven in public since his accident.

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