JOLIET, Ill.–Probation did little to slow down Penske Racing.
Less than three hours after NASCAR placed the organization on probation for alleged collusion last Saturday at Richmond, Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski qualified 1-2 for Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first race in the expanded Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Logano, who streaked around the 1.5-mile track in 28.509 seconds (189.414 mph), led a parade of 14 drivers who broke Jimmie Johnson’s 2005 qualifying mark of 188.147 mph during Friday’s time trials. He edged Keselowski (189.248 mph), his teammate, for the pole by .025 seconds.
The Coors Light pole award was Logano’s second of the season and the seventh of his career. Juan Pablo Montoya (189.062 mph) qualified third, followed by Kasey Kahne (188.785 mph) and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (188.772 mph).
“The mile-and-a-half, two-mile race tracks are where we’ve been our strongest throughout the year,” Logano said. “The shorter tracks have been a little tougher for us. We know in these races (at intermediate tracks) that we really have to capitalize, and the other ones we have to be on damage control and try to get our cars as fast as we can…
“We’ll work hard (Saturday) in practice and get our car as good as we can get it, and we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Keselowski felt his teammate made a statement with his pole-winning run, though not necessarily in response to the adversity his organization has faced over the past week.
“Any time you run well, it’s a statement,” Keselowski said. “It doesn’t have to be just when you’re facing adversity that you can see. There’s a lot of adversity as drivers we face all the time. Some of it is in the media, and some of it isn’t.
“Running well against the best competition in the world that competes in Sprint Cup is always an accomplishment, whether there’s off-the-track drama or not.”
NASCAR placed Penske Racing and Front Row Motorsports on probation Friday for allegedly trying to strike a deal for Front Row’s David Gilliland to finish behind Logano at Richmond, as Logano was striving–successfully as it turned out–to qualify for the Chase. Logano finished 22nd and Gilliland 23rd, with Logano knocking Jeff Gordon out of the Chase by one point.
In the interest of fairness, and in light of the competitive manipulations by more than one team, NASCAR added Gordon to the Chase on Friday, expanding the field from 12 to 13 drivers. Gordon responded by qualifying sixth for Sunday’s race.
In addition to Logano, Kahne and Gordon, other Chase drivers secured the following starting spots: Greg Biffle, seventh; Carl Edwards, eighth; Jimmie Johnson, ninth; Matt Kenseth, 10th; Kyle Busch, 12th; Kurt Busch, 16th; Kevin Harvick, 17th; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 18th; Ryan Newman, 20th; and Clint Bowyer, 24th.