Joey Logano claims first 2018 pole for Kansas elimination race
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Shades of Talladega. Only this time Team Penske-driver Joey Logano in particular-joined the Ford domination party.
Saving the fastest lap of the day for the final round of Friday’s knockout qualifying session, Logano navigated 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in 28.177 seconds (191.646 mph) to claim the pole position for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Logano enters the elimination race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 12 with a 39-point cushion over teammate Brad Keselowski, the first driver below the cut line. But that doesn’t dictate a conservative approach for the No. 22 team come Sunday.
“I’m not much of a play-it-safe guy,” said Logano, who earned his first Busch Pole Award of the season, his second at Kansas and the 20th of his career. “I’m not good at it, for one… This race, I wouldn’t say it’s a wild card. We’ve raced here a lot, and we tend to know how the race is going to play out.
“The plan is to race, like we tend to do. We’ve got a good car, obviously. The car’s got a lot of steam. So it’s a normal race for us. Yes, it’s a cutoff race. Yes, there are points involved. Yes, we’ve got to keep up with that, but it’s just a race. Any time you line up for one of these things, the goal is the same. The goal is to win.”
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick (191.178 mph) qualified second and, in fact, was second fastest in each of the three rounds. Last Friday, the four SHR drivers claimed the top four starting spots at Talladega and ran 1-2-3-4 for most of Sunday’s race.
On Friday, Harvick and Talladega winner Aric Almirola qualified second and third, respectively, but the Team Penske Fords of Ryan Blaney and Keselowski, both of whom face an uphill climb to make the Round of 8, were fourth and fifth.
“Days like today are days that really show us all the hard work that comes from the engine shop, and you saw a lot of the same displayed last week at Talladega from the engines to the oils and the preparation of getting the cars up in the front of the field,” said Harvick, who is locked into the Round of 8 on points. “It’s a good start to the weekend. It gets you good pits stalls and allows you to get everything at the start of the race going and allows you to have a little buffer if your car is not handling right.
“Qualifying days and superspeedway races are a huge credit to the engine shop and the things they do. Our guys do a great job with the cars, qualifying or race trim. It makes it a lot of fun.”
Behind the five Fords were the four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, with Erik Jones qualifying sixth, Kyle Busch seventh, Daniel Suarez eighth and Denny Hamlin ninth. Tenth-place Alex Bowman, who must win on Sunday to advance to the Round of 8, was the only Chevrolet driver in the top 12.
“We were the best in class, I guess,” Bowman said. “We wanted to be quite a bit better than that. I got pretty loose in (Turns) 1 and 2 and had to lift. So we should have been a couple of spots better probably, if we wouldn’t have had that happen.
“But (crew chief) Greg (Ives) made good adjustments. The car got better every run, and we’ll move on from there. We’ve got some work to do run with that other manufacturer towards the front of the field, but I’m confident we can get better and get there.”
Kyle Larson, 11th in the standings and likely in a must-win situation, suffered a setback even before qualifying began. He hit the outside wall on his second lap in opening practice and was forced to a backup car.
Larson, who is 36-points out of eighth place, was 27th in time trials but must drop to the rear of the field for the start of the race because of the change to the backup.
Martin Truex Jr., who currently occupies the final spot inside the Playoff cut line, qualified 12th in his No. 78 Toyota, one spot behind SHR driver Kurt Busch.