Team Penske Sweeps the Front Row in Pocono
After Joey Logano was quickest in the first two rounds of qualifying, his teammate Brad Keselowski took the final round en route to his first pole of 2016 and first pole at Pocono Raceway. His previous best qualifying results at the "Tricky Triangle" were a pair of third-place efforts in 2014.
It was a speed of 181.726 mph that claimed the top spot. Logano ran a speed of 181.400 mph, nearly a tenth of a second off the pole-winning time.
"It was a really solid effort for Team Penske," Keselowski said. "To get 1-2 is hard to do, but we had great speed today. I wasn't really sure what to expect with the rain and all of the other variables that were thrown at us with no practice."
The last seven times that Keselowski has started on pole, he has finished in the top 10 each time with two victories.
After Logano, it was August winner Matt Kenseth who placed third at 181.316 mph. Kevin Harvick had the fourth best time at 181.192 mph and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five at 180.759 mph.
"I didn't do a very good job today," Harvick said of his fourth-place effort. "The car was a lot faster than the driver today. The guys did a job preparing a good job, but I wasn't in a good rhythm and didn't do a good job in any of the rounds to get everything out of the car that I needed to."
Tony Stewart will start sixth in his best qualifying effort since Michigan last August when he began that 400-mile race fifth.
Jimmie Johnson will start seventh, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. eighth, Kurt Busch ninth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th with Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Blaney alongside in 14th.
The defending race winner, Martin Truex, Jr. posted the 17th quickest time in qualifying. The No. 78 team feels that they missed the setup completely and thought the track was going to be something different. It took them two tries to get through the first round, which put more laps on their tires, hurting the speed in Round Two.
"We just totally missed it off the trailer, which is unusual for our team," Truex said. "We were way off our first run in practice and had so many different ideas about what it might have been. It felt so bad that it felt like the tires were wrong or we had a bad set."
Final practice is set to begin at 11:30 on Saturday weather depending. It will be the only time that the teams will be able to practice on race trim because no driver completed more than seven laps in the opening practice on Friday.
Denny Hamlin Comes Back to Win at Charlotte
With less than 40 laps to go Hamlin had to go to the rear for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop under caution.
It took the No. 18 car just over 30 laps to get up to third after restarting 14th.
Then a caution flew with under two laps to go and changed the entire outcome of the 300-mile race.
Hamlin's JGR teammate and pole-sitter Erik Jones brought out a caution when he cut down a right front tire, pounding the outside wall. The No. 18 team decided to come down and put four tires on their machine, while the two race leaders stayed out.
On the green-white-checkered finish, Hamlin grabbed the lead coming to the white flag where he wouldn't look back en route to JGR's seventh win of the season in the series.
"It was a second opportunity," Hamlin said of his victory. "I was hoping for that caution there and the end and we got it. We were able to get four tires and took off. It was a little closer than I thought, we were just really right in those last couple of laps."
Austin Dillon was the first off pit road taking just two tires after the final caution. He gained one position in the final two laps, finishing in the runner-up position.
After leading 58 laps and being one of two drivers to stay out under the late race caution, Joey Logano came home third. This is his second top-five finish in five races this season in the No. 22 car, which is still looking for its first victory as a team.
"We had a car that was capable of winning if circumstances were right," Logano said of his third-place effort. "I thought I was going to have a good restart next to [Kyle] and I thought if we cleared him, like we did, we would have a shot. It was just really hard to hold off those four tires."
In his second career start Cole Custer came home with a fourth-place finish. His JR Motorsports teammate, Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.
Kyle Larson made a bold move in Turn 3 of the final lap going for the win, but came up short and hit the outside wall. It cost him dearly as he finished sixth after leading 46 laps.
Larson was the leader of the race when the final caution flag flew and the No. 42 team decided to stay out. Going into the final set of corners he had a shot at the victory, but came up short of his third career XFINITY Series triumph.
"I didn't get a great take-off and Joey [Logano] got around me and was sucking on my door," Larson said of the final restart. "Denny [Hamlin] gave me a shot and i was surprised at how much grip I had. It's pretty hard to beat four tires."
Rookie Brandon Jones finish seventh, with RCR teammate Ty Dillon eighth, Brennan Poole ninth and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 10.
There were eight cautions in the race for 54 laps. In the two races combined at Charlotte in 2015, there were just six cautions total in 600 miles of competition.
On Lap 25, a caution flew and took out three of the first six drivers in the running order after they slid through some oil on the track in Turn 3.
It started when pole-sitter, Jones was making a move on race leader Hamlin, but slid in the oil and made contact with the wall. From there his JGR teammate, Daniel Suarez slid and had his car saved until coming back up the track into the wall where he was met by Elliott Sadler. All three drivers went at least one lap down
Suarez rebounded to finish 12th, while Sadler came home 28th and Jones 31st.
Next weekend, the XFINITY Series will tackle Pocono Raceway for the first time in series history.
Erik Jones Earns Fourth Pole of 2016
In the third round of qualifying, Jones posted a lap of 184.546 mph, just edging out his teammate Daniel Suarez. The No. 20 team is coming off a victory in the XFINITY Series last event in Dover two weeks ago.
With a speed of 184.470 mph, Suarez was runner-up in qualifying for the fourth time this year. This time it was just .012 seconds behind his JGR teammate.
Out of the 11 races, the No. 19 car has begun the race in the top three positions 11 times.
In his first XFINITY Series race of 2016, Denny Hamlin was over two-tenths of a second off the top time in the final round of qualifying. He recorded a lap at 183.219 mph, which improved from practice on Thursday.
Austin Dillon sat on the pole and swept both races at Charlotte last year will start from fourth on Saturday afternoon. His hot lap was over three-tenths of a second off the pole winning time at 182.636 mph.
2014 winner of this race Kyle Larson rounded out the top five at 182.451 mph.
XFINITY Series points leader, Elliott Sadler will start just outside the top five in sixth. This marks the No. 1 team second best qualifying effort of the year, just behind a fifth in California.
The highest starting rookie is Cole Custer in 11th with Brandon Jones alongside in 12th.
Jeb Burton will have to start from the rear after getting into the wall in Round 1. He had the 27th quickest lap.
TJ Bell and Morgan Shepherd are the two drivers who failed to qualify for the 40-car field.
Joe Gibbs Racing Tops Practice Sessions in Dover
Much like all season long, Joe Gibbs Racing was quick on track in preparation for the main event. In the first session it was Kyle Busch who was quickest.
Busch was the fast car out on track in the opening practice Saturday morning. The No. 18 laid down an early lap of 157.839 mph, which is just less than eight mph slower than the quick time on Friday.
Two of his JGR teammates were right behind him on speed. Denny Hamlin posted an early lap of 157.356 mph. Carl Edwards was third at 157.006 mph, just over a tenth of a second off the fast lap.
Ryan Newman was fourth in the session at 156.770 mph and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five 156.590 mph.
Pole-sitter, Kevin Harvick was 10th fastest in the session at 156.413 mph. The No. 4 team dominated the race in the fall leading 355 of the 400 laps.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson was 12th on the board, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott was eighth, quickest of all the rookie drivers.
The fourth JGR driver, Matt Kenseth recorded the 19th best time. He was just over three-tenths of a second off the top time. After being involved in a big practice crash on Friday, Danica Patrick led the way of drivers in backup cars with the 25th quickest time. Jamie McMurray was just behind in 26th and Tony Stewart was mired down in 34th.
Hamlin led the way at a lap of 157.329 mph. In the past Dover has been the Achilles heel for the No. 11 team, but he has been fast all weekend long.
Harvick rebounded from the first practice to lay down the second quickest lap in the second session. He ran a speed of 156.447 mph which was over a tenth of a second behind the hot lap that Hamlin put down.
The younger Busch brother was third fast at 156.365 mph, with his older brother in fourth at 155.777 mph. Elliott rounded out the top five on the board at 155.696 mph.
Kenseth improved on the morning session and went to eighth in race conditions.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was down to 25th on the leader board. The No. 88 car will start on the outside of the front row when the green flag waves, but struggled Saturday in race conditions.
McMurray ran 62 laps in the session, most out of the 39 drivers that completed a lap. The No. 1 machine struggled in his backup car prior to this practice that he ended in 17th.
The last time NASCAR was at the Monster Mile, McMurray finished fourth at Dover and finished one position shy of making it into the next round of the Chase.
The green flag will wave shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.
The last time the Cup Series ran at Dover, Harvick led 355 laps en route to securing a Chase birth into the second round of the Chase. On Friday, it was a lap of 165.145 mph that secured the pole for the No. 4 car. Had that lap been ran in qualifying it would have set a new track record.
"That definitely changes your approach," Harvick said of the possibility of rain. "That's what the forecast looked like all week and we just decided to come with qualifying trim."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will line up second after having one of his better practices of the year. At a lap of 164.707 mph it will be his best start since he was awarded the pole at Daytona last summer. The qualifying for that event was also postponed due to rain.
"Hopefully we can get some practice in tomorrow and work on the race setup a bit," said Earnhardt.
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will start alongside in Row 2. Each driver has a victory on the concrete at Dover and both have already clinched a spot in the Chase this season.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will round out the top five, running a lap in practice at 163.815 mph.
The other two JGR cars will lineup inside of the top 10, Denny Hamlin in sixth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th. While fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Brian Scott was the only driver to make a race run in practice. He will start 17th on Sunday.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson will start from 21st, with Joey Logano alongside in 22nd. Other notable drivers starting toward the rear are Jamie McMurray 24th, Danica Patrick 31st and Tony Stewart 34th.
There are two practice sessions on Saturday to prepare for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.