RICHMOND, Va. – Matt Kenseth, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver stripped of his pole award from last week at Kansas in a raft of penalties levied by NASCAR this week, set a track record with a lap at 130.334 mph Friday at Richmond International Raceway.
Kenseth edged JGR teammate Brian Vickers by 0.005 seconds to claim only the 10th top starting position of his career in 481 starts. Vickers, who held the previous qualifying record at 129.983, is filling in for injured JGR driver Denny Hamlin.
In what has been a hard week for the JGR stable because of the hammer-like quality of the penalties imposed by NASCAR, the results were welcome news. Kyle Busch, the third driver for the team, qualified eighth.
“When you only win nine poles in 14 years, you’re pretty darned fired up for all of them,” Kenseth said.
“For sure, that was one of our goals for this weekend was to come here, sit on the pole and kind of quiet down at least part of the noise.”
The run again qualified Kenseth for next year’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race for pole winners only.
Of the penalties, Kenseth said: “I think almost every person that I’ve talked to has been very supportive. I just kind of left it behind me. I’m just going to let the appeals process work out and see what happens. Whatever it is it is. We’ll have to deal with the consequences then and move on. For now, it’s just business as usual.”
NATIONWIDE: Brad Keselowski ducked underneath Kyle Busch to take the lead with 10 laps to go Friday night and won a wild NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway.
Keselowski had to hold off a final charge from Kevin Harvick, but after Harvick closed within a few car lengths, Keselowski kept him at bay and slightly expanded his margin in the final laps to win the three-way duel among some of NASCAR’s most aggressive and daring drivers.
“You’re racing the best and you know if you make a mistake, they’re going to beat you,” Keselowski said.
The dueling included Keselowski passing Harvick on the outside with about 40 laps to go, and Busch passing them both on the outside for the lead with about 25 laps to go before the last two of eight cautions, the final one ending with 11 laps to go.
“I thought it was pretty darn good,” Keselowski said.
“I was grinning the whole time. I had fun and Kyle raced me really well, and so did Kevin. I think this is what racing is supposed to be like — side-by-side and just little touches, but not big ones. It was a great race all the way around.”
The victory was the 21st of Keselowski’s career in the series and second on the 0.75-mile oval.part of the race and faded late, finishing 16th.