Hometown hero Brad Keselowski wins NASCAR Cup pole at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 11: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 11, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski accomplished something he has never done Friday.  The Team Penske driver put his Ford on the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400, scoring his first career pole at Michigan International Speedway.

“It feels pretty good,” Keselowski said.  “I’m not really known as a great qualifier, so maybe over time I’ve probably put a little less stock in qualifying, but I can tell you that when I saw that we were gonna win the pole those last few seconds of qualifying it put chills down my body.  It’s a great feeling.”

For the Michigan native, the pole at his home track was a special one.

“Any success you have at your home track is right there with having success in the biggest races of the year like Daytona for the 500 and the championship,” Keselowski said. “It’s a big deal for any driver, not just myself.  Of course, this is my home track and to be able to have any kind of success here just really feels so darn good and I just hope we can keep it up this weekend.”

He put down the fastest lap 35.451, 203.097 mph with just over 3-minutes left in the final five-minute round.

“I was very happy with the performance of the car,” Keselowski said. “I thought maybe I had a shot at it in the last round, but my tires were pretty hot because I did two runs right in a row, so who knows?  I thought, ‘Well, I’ll go out right at the end once the tires cool off,’ but with the way the clouds were rolling you had to go right away, so I went right away there and I thought as I’m going out, ‘There no way.  I don’t have enough time for the tires to cool off.  The track is optimal right now, but I’ve got to go.’  And it worked.”

Perhaps the only driver more excited than Keselowski was his teammate Joey Logano. Logano, needing a win to make NASCAR’s playoffs, put down a lap that puts him on the front row right next to Keselowski.

“You don’t know what you’re gonna have before you unload,” Logano said.  “It seems like we’ve picked up a little bit and hopefully it continues through practice tomorrow.  We can hopefully find a couple more things.  The field usually gets closer.  As there’s more practice time the field makes more adjustments and it gets a little bit tighter, so hopefully we can make some good adjustments, maintain the speed we’ve got in our car, and race my teammates for the win.”

Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Chase Elliott make up the top five.

Keselowski’s pole came, perhaps, at the expense of Ryan Blaney.  Blaney led the lone practice session earlier Friday, and followed that up with the top speeds of the first two rounds of qualifying.

A pole wasn’t in the cards for the Wood Brothers driver. Blaney took his lap after Keselowski but bobbled in turn 2. That slight hiccup was all it took and Blaney missed the pole and will start 12th Sunday.

“I just got loose over there,” Blaney said nodding towards turn 2. “You lose time in one corner and you can’t make it up. I’m proud of the first two rounds. We didn’t tighten up for the last round. We have good speed in our car. Hopefully we should be able to drive up through everybody in the race.”

Ahead of him, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, winner of the last two races at Michigan, and Denny Hamlin round out the top 10. Clint Bowyer starts 11th.

With 39 entries, no car was sent home. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 will be see live on the NBC Sports Network Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET.

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