Keselowski on pole for Sunday's 400-miler; Nationwide qualifying canceled
LAS VEGAS -- Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski will start at the front of the field for Sunday’s event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after all scheduled on-track activity on the 1.5-mile circuit Friday was canceled due to rain.
The rainout marked the first time in the track’s history that Sprint Cup qualifying was canceled due to weather. The starting grid will be determined by the NASCAR rule book, with the top 36 set by 2012 owners’ points and the remainder of the field set by owners’ points or qualifying attempts this season.
“That’s one of the perks, I guess, of being the champion in the first few races,” Keselowski said. “With the rain, I got a great deal there. This is the first time I’ve ever had a decent starting position in a rainout. I feel pretty good about that.”
Persistent rain Friday canceled all scheduled activity at the speedway. NASCAR made an effort to dry the track and get in some Nationwide Series practice during a break in the weather late Friday afternoon, but rain began to fall again while the cars were rolling behind a maintenance vehicle with its caution lights flashing.
Because Nationwide cars have not yet been on the race track, NASCAR scheduled a practice session for that series Saturday rather than qualifying. The starting grid for the event was also set by the rule book, putting Brian Vickers and Trevor Bayne -- who drive the cars that finished first and second, respectively, in the owners’ standings last season -- on the front row.
Saturday’s schedule now consists of Nationwide practice from 8-9:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, followed by a pair of Sprint Cup practices at 9:40 and 11:35 a.m. The Nationwide Series race remains at 1 p.m. as originally scheduled.
Keselowski will start on the front row of the Sprint Cup event alongside Clint Bowyer, last season’s runner-up. Las Vegas marks the final week 2012 points will be used in the event of a qualifying cancellation. The series reverts to points in the current season beginning next weekend at Bristol.
Sprint Cup teams unloaded a day early for a test session Thursday, given that Las Vegas is the first 1.5-mile intermediate track event for the redesigned, more brand-identifiable Generation-6 race car. Although Sprint Cup teams have two practices slated for Saturday, drivers said the test session would help to make up for the lost track time.
“I’m glad we got on track yesterday,” said Jimmie Johnson, who will start third Sunday. “That was a good move by NASCAR to give us some extra time on top of the fact that if we did have rain or some issues, we would all have on-track activity.”
Even so, many teams will use different cars for the race weekend than they did for the test. “The car we tested yesterday is not the same we will run Sunday,” Keselowski said. “Certainly, we’d like to have all the track time we can get. It’s the same for everybody, the same circumstances, and it’s all about how you adapt to it.”
A total of 43 cars were entered for Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400, and the qualifying rainout means Mike Bliss will be the lone driver sent home early. Forecasts call for mostly clear skies and only a minimal chance of rain in Las Vegas for the remainder of the race weekend.
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