Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Brad Keselowski Edges Martin Truex Jr. for Las Vegas Pole

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

LAS VEGAS – Brad Keselowski blew the first and second corners on his money lap in Friday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Then he blew away the rest of the field.

Perhaps “blew away” is a bit of an exaggeration. Keselowski covered the 1.5-mile distance in 27.881 (193.680 mph) to edge Martin Truex Jr. (193.458 mph) for the top starting spot in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX) by .003 seconds.

The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski’s first of the season, his first in nine attempts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the 13th of his career.

With most drivers in the final round stronger through the first two corners before tightening up in Turns 3 and 4, it is conceivable that missing 1 and 2 actually helped Keselowski’s lap.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” said Keselowski, the defending winner at Las Vegas and last week’s winner at Atlanta. “I’ll have to look through a bunch of data, and the smart guys – the engineers and crew chiefs – will probably point some of that stuff out to me. But, yeah, every time I looked at the tracker, the cars that were fast in 1 and 2 weren’t in 3 and 4, and we were the opposite.

“We were really good in 3 and 4… but we’ll take it either way.”

Ryan Blaney qualified third after setting the fastest lap of the day (194.147 mph) in the second of the three rounds. Matt Kenseth will start fourth, followed by Kyle Larson and Joey Logano.

Like Keselowski, Truex missed Turns 1 and 2 on the lap that counted but was strong through Turns 3 and 4 in securing his front-row starting spot.

“I felt like we had a pretty well-put-together lap, but it wasn’t perfect,” Truex said. “Not quite as good through Turns 1 and 2 with the bumps as I’d like to be, and it felt like we hit 3 and 4 good. I felt like the bumps in 1 and 2 got us.

“All in all, I felt like we just missed the pace a little bit. We were really strong in practice and thought (the track) would pick up quite a bit of speed tonight, and it didn’t. That threw us a little bit of a curve and kind of hurt our setup. It was a good recovery. We made a lot of changes as qualifying went on and got better at the end. That’s all you can ask for.”

After a strong start to the season in Daytona and Atlanta, the Stewart-Haas Racing cars were sluggish in Friday’s time trials, with none of the four advancing to the final round. Series leader Kevin Harvick will start 19th on Sunday, two spots behind Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch.

Clint Bowyer was the fastest of the SHR drivers, earning the 13th starting position after missing the final round by .001 seconds.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – Kobalt 400
1. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 193.680 mph.
2. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 193.458 mph.
3. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 193.410 mph.
4. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 193.389 mph.
5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 193.161 mph.
6. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 193.140 mph.
7. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 193.133 mph.
8. (77) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 192.369 mph.
9. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 192.362 mph.
10. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 192.362 mph.
11. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 191.966 mph.
12. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 191.042 mph.
13. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 192.623 mph.
14. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 192.431 mph.
15. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 192.356 mph.
16. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 192.267 mph.
17. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 192.089 mph.
18. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 192.068 mph.
19. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 191.700 mph.
20. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 191.639 mph.
21. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 191.523 mph.
22. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 191.029 mph.
23. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 190.638 mph.
24. (13) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 188.864 mph.
25. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 190.570 mph.
26. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 190.402 mph.
27. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 190.208 mph.
28. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, 189.954 mph.
29. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 189.553 mph.
30. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 189.401 mph.
31. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 187.813 mph.
32. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 186.716 mph.
33. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 185.752 mph.
34. (83) Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 185.554 mph.
35. (23) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 185.008 mph.
36. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 182.624 mph.
37. (15) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 180.301 mph.
38. (55) Derrike Cope #, Chevrolet, 177.468 mph.
39. (51) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 174.876 mph.

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