It’s official – when fans come out Dover International Speedway on Sunday, June 1 for the “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, they’ll be seeing the fastest cars ever to go around the Monster Mile.
A total of 24 cars turned laps that were faster than the qualifying record of 161.849 mph set by Dale Earnhardt Jr. last fall. And it was Brad Keselowski who did so the quickest and thus becomes the official record-holder, taking his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole at the Monster Mile with a lap of 164.444 mph. Keselowski continued a strong season of qualifying, picking up his second pole and eighth front-row start of the year – further cementing the notion that NASCAR’s new qualifying system is working well for him.
“It’s been a good year for qualifying,” Keselowski said afterward. “I’d say most years that has not been the case, so I’m not going to complain by any stretch of the imagination. As important as qualifying is here at Dover with pit road selection, I’m excited for Sunday’s race.”
For complete qualifying results, click here.
Keselowski has one career win at Dover, but has never started better than sixth. That being said, the pole may be a bit of a hindrance at the Monster Mile – only 13 pole-sitters have won in the 88 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races held at the track, with Jimmie Johnson doing so twice during the spring races in 2009 and 2010, in the midst of his five consecutive championships. Before that, the last driver to do it was Ryan Newman in 2003.
Keselowski says the reason for the speeds is simple – it’s the new car design for 2014.
“The bigger rear spoiler adds a considerable amount of downforce,” he said. “Cars make more grip by a long shot than they ever have. Last year we finished the year with around 2,800 pounds of downforce and now they’re at about 3,200 pounds. We’re seeing a significant increase in downforce and a significant increase in speed to go along with that.”
Kyle Busch, who was fastest in the morning practice session, will start second, followed by Keselowski’s Penske teammate Joey Logano, perennial Dover favorite Jimmie Johnson, and rookie Kyle Larson rounding out the top five. Points leader Jeff Gordon will start sixth, followed by Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer in the top 10. A.J. Allmendinger and Greg Biffle were the other two drivers to make the second round of qualifying.
Allmendinger eked his way in at the last second, taking a lap with about a minute and a half left in the first round that bested Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 0.015 seconds and knocked Earnhardt out of the second round. Earnhardt will start 13th.
The June 1 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race takes the green flag at 1 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the gates or by calling 800-441-RACE.