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Brad Keselowski on pole after heavy rain forces NASCAR to cancel Las Vegas qualifying

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Mar. 08, 2013

Less than two days in town and the odds are already in Brad Keselowski’s favor.

Keselowski, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, was able to cash in on one of the few perks that carry over to the next year when he earned the top starting position in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Persistent rain washed out Cup qualifying and Sunday’s field was set by 2012 car owner points, which leaves Keselowski and 2012 runner-up Clint Bowyer sharing the front row.

“I was just thinking, with this being Vegas and all, what the odds would be of a rainout in Vegas? I bet that was pretty high,” Keselowski said Friday.

“Obviously, whenever you can start up front it is a big deal and you get the first pit stall and all those things that make a big difference on pit road.

“The way our car has been running the last two weeks, and off of what I saw in practice (Thursday), I feel like we are in position to hopefully keep that for a very long time in the race and hopefully close it out.”

Keselowski and his No. 2 Penske Racing team are off to their best start since he joined the organization in 2010 with a pair of fourth-place finishes.

In 2010, he was 28th in the series standings after two races. In 2011, he was 29th and last season he was 12th.

“We have been really close the last two weeks. We were in position to win and just came up a little bit short,” Keselowski said. “Hopefully, this will be the catalyst we need to close it out.”

The Cup series got several hours of practice on Thursday in large part because Sunday’s race is the first for the new Cup series car on a 1.5-mile speedway – the most common size track during the season.

In Keselowski’s case, however, the car he used on track Thursday is not the one he will run in the race on Sunday. That was true for probably close to 50 percent of the teams that participated in the test.

With no practice and qualifying on Friday, that leaves Saturday practice as the only meaningful time Keselowski will get in this weekend’s car.

The time on the track, he said, was still beneficial.

“I am very thankful we had the test day. That is a big deal for us to not go into Sunday blind. I am glad that worked out,” Keselowski said.

“For us, the car we tested is not the same as what we will run here on Sunday. Certainly, we would like to have all the track time we can get but it is the same for everybody. It is the same circumstances and just a matter of how you adapt to them.”

The same can be said of Keselowski’s starting position on Sunday. The last time he started a Cup race out front was when he won the pole in 2011 for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I think that track position in this sport has always been important and is becoming increasingly important the last few years. I don’t want to under sell the history of the sport to that regard,” Keselowski said.

“It was certainly not easy to make those passes last week. I am not going to assume that it will be this week. Thankfully, I don’t have to as it pertains to the start of the race.”

Sunday’s Lineup

The Lineup for ’s the Kobalt Tools 400 At Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nev.

Pos.No.DriverCarSpeed
1.2Brad KeselowskiFordOwnPts
2.15Clint BowyerToyotaOwnPts
3.48Jimmie JohnsonChevyOwnPts
4.5Kasey KahneChevyOwnPts
5.16Greg BiffleFordOwnPts
6.11Denny HamlinToyotaOwnPts
7.17R. Stenhouse, Jr.FordOwnPts
8.29Kevin HarvickChevyOwnPts
9.14Tony StewartChevyOwnPts
10.24Jeff GordonChevyOwnPts
11.56Martin Truex, Jr..ToyotaOwnPts
12.88D. Earnhardt, Jr.ChevyOwnPts
13.18Kyle BuschToyotaOwnPts
14.39Ryan NewmanChevyOwnPts
15.55Mark MartinToyotaOwnPts
16.99Carl EdwardsFordOwnPts
17.27Paul MenardChevyOwnPts
18.20Matt KensethToyotaOwnPts
19.9Marcos AmbroseFordOwnPts
20.31Jeff BurtonChevyOwnPts
21.22Joey LoganoFordOwnPts
22.43Aric AlmirolaFordOwnPts
23.1Jamie McMurrayChevyOwnPts
24.78Kurt BuschChevyOwnPts
25.42Juan P. MontoyaChevyOwnPts
26.47Bobby LabonteToyotaOwnPts
27.51Austin DillonChevyOwnPts
28.93Travis KvapilToyotaOwnPts
29.34David RaganFordOwnPts
30.13Casey MearsFordOwnPts
31.38David GillilandFordOwnPts
32.83David ReutimannToyotaOwnPts
33.7Dave BlaneyChevyOwnPts
34.32Ken SchraderFordOwnPts
35.36J.J. YeleyChevyOwnPts
36.21Trevor BayneFordOwnPts
37.10Danica PatrickChevyOwnPts
38.30David StremmeToyotaOwnPts
39.98M. McDowellFordOwnPts
40.95Scott SpeedFordAttempts
41.33Landon CassillChevyAttempts
42.87Joe NemechekToyotaAttempts
43.35Josh WiseFordAttempts

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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