Brad Keselowski on Coca-Cola 600 pole
CONCORD, N.C. -- Moments after Brad Keselowski drove the fastest car at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday night, the surging driver couldn't resist poking fun at the driver caught going too fast two days earlier.
Keselowski's lap of 192.089 mph gave him the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. He was then asked what's been the difference in the past two Sprint Cup points races -- finishes of third and 13th -- after a miserable start to the season.
"My crew chief, Paul Wolfe, he lives off of Perth Road," Keselowski said. "So maybe he found some secrets there. There's a lot of speed on that road, I hear."
Perth Road in nearby Troutman was where a police officer said he clocked Kyle Busch driving 128 mph in a 45 mph zone on Tuesday. On this day, an apologetic Busch had only the 21st fastest time and Keselowski continued a satisfying turnaround following bad performances and criticism from teammate Kurt Busch.
"Everything is motivation for me and that was no exception," Keselowski said.
AJ Allmendinger (191.693 mph) will join Keselowski on the front row for NASCAR's longest race. Carl Edwards, who won last week's All-Star race then wrecked his car in a celebration mishap in the grass, qualified third in his new car and took his share of ribbing, too.
"If you win, will you spin out through the grass again?" Allmendinger asked Edwards.
"No!" replied Edwards.
Keselowski, whose lone Sprint Cup victory came at Talladega in 2009, enters the 400-lap race 24th in the points standings with just one top-10 finish this year. But Keselowski said the departure this month of Penske Racing technical director Tom German "has opened doors that were never opened before" for his No. 2 Dodge team.
"Every week we just keep picking away a little here, a little bit there," Keselowski said. "We're starting to get more people to believe in us."
Qualifying began with the sun beating down on portions of the track, which was well above 100 degrees. But those going out later in qualifying thanks to fast practice times encountered a setting sun, cooler conditions and faster times.
Cars exceeded 200 mph at some points on the track, including Keselowski's speedy lap, when he went out 30th of 48 cars. Not bad for a driver who earlier this month was getting heat from a teammate for his lackluster performances.
"I think if you look at all of 2010, he's absolutely right," Keselowski said of Kurt Busch, the defending race champion who qualified 26th. "Until the last probably two or three races, with the exception of Phoenix, I wasn't even close to running by Kurt, not even close. I think he definitely had a leg to stand on."
Kyle Busch, who earlier in the day apologized again for his speeding on a public road, turned in a lap of 189.440 mph.
"We're just not fast enough today," said Busch, who was more confident of his race setup.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s qualifying woes continued with a disappointing lap that gave him the 24th starting spot.
"We've been terrible all year long in qualifying," he said. "Looking forward to the race."
Paul Menard, on crutches after receiving 20 stitches in his right foot following an accident while working at his home, qualified 16th.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press