March 9, 2013

Auto Racing Roundup: Keselowski claims the pole

The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS - Brad Keselowski will start on the pole after heavy rain forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying for Sunday's race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The track got steady rain all morning Friday and again in the early afternoon after a brief break, forcing NASCAR to scrap practice and qualifying in Las Vegas for the first time.

"I was just thinking when I walked in, with this being Vegas and all, what the odds would be of a rainout in Vegas," Keselowski said. "I bet that was pretty high."

Sunday's field will be set by points and the NASCAR rule book, giving the pole to last season's Sprint Cup series champion. The top 36 spots are set by owners' points from last year, with the rest filled out by points or qualifying attempts.

"That's a really good deal," said Keselowski, the first-time champ. "It's one of the perks, I guess, of being the champion in the first few races. This is the first time I've had a decent starting position in a rainout."

Mike Bliss will miss the race because of the cancellation of qualifying.

Keselowski will be on the front row alongside Clint Bowyer, last season's second-place finisher. Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson and teammate Kasey Kahne will be in the second row.

Although the rain also forced the cancellation of Friday's practice, no drivers seemed particularly concerned after going through Thursday's open test of the new Gen-6 car.

"We had more than enough practice this weekend," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "So I'm not too worried about what we didn't get to do today because yesterday was way more than we needed, to be honest."

Danica Patrick said she's fine after getting hit in the head by a rock on a dirt track.

Patrick got smacked by a stray rock while attending a race Thursday night, leaving her with a sore head. She had a brief conversation with medical staff Friday but felt no problems.

INDY 500: A.J. Allmendinger was hired by Roger Penske to drive two IndyCar races this season, including the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. Allmendinger also will compete April 7 in Birmingham, Ala.

NASCAR suspended the driver in July after he failed a random drug test and was released by Penske when a backup "B" sample also tested positive for a banned substance. After completing the "Road to Recovery" program, Allmendinger was reinstated in September and finished the season by competing in four Cup races with Phoenix Racing.

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