Penske powers to top spot, Keselowski on pole

Fresh off his NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) win last weekend at Phoenix, Brad Keselowski is once again in the top spot.  The 2010 NNS champ posted a quick time of 32.455 seconds (166.384 mph) in the final round of qualifying for Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

His Penske Racing teammate, Ryan Blaney, was fastest in the first two rounds, and was on a pole run in the final round before slipping up in Turns 3 and 4 and qualifying fifth in the No. 12 Discount Tire Ford.  Blaney was fastest in both of Friday’s practice sessions for the final NNS race of the season.

Kyle Larson picked up where he left off from last night’s Truck Series race by showing speed in the Nationwide car.  The 22-year-old driver will start next to Keselowski once the green flag drops today.  Larson dominated last year’s race before losing the lead late to the 2012 Cup champ, who had fresher tires. 

Another Kyle in the field, Busch, posted the sixth fastest time in the final round.  The No. 54 team sits 29 points behind the No. 22 Penske Racing team.   Busch was a winner in the last NNS 1.5 mile race at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago and finishing ahead of the No. 22 team. 

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had two cars qualify inside the top five.  Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler qualified third and fourth, respectively.  Kenseth remains winless in NNS this season, but does have a series win at Homestead in 2006.  Sadler won at Talladega back in May and looks to end his final race with JGR with a win.

Three rookies made it to the top 12 in the final round of qualifying.  Dylan Kwasniewski was the quickest of those in ninth, with Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed right behind him.

Only one JR Motorsports driver made the last round and that was the No. 5 of Josh Berry.  The late model driver will start 12th this afternoon in his intermediate track debut.  Champ Chase Elliott and Regan Smith just missed the cut-off in 14th and 15th, respectively. 

Trevor Bayne also missed the cut in 13th and will drive his last NNS race before driving full-time in the Sprint Cup Series in 2015.  Another Ford driver, Corey LaJoie, returns to the site of his series debut in 2013 with a 16th-place qualifying effort for Biagi-DenBeste Racing. 

Fifth-place points driver Ty Dillon starts 21th, after brushing the wall in the second session.  Cup driver Paul Menard stepped in the No. 33 car for Scott Lagasse, Jr., who was feeling sick.  It is unsure whether Lagasse will race today.

The diversity of today’s NNS field continues, with NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece.  The 2013 Modified champ qualified 33th in his No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet.  Jake Crum also returns to the series by posting the 35th fastest time in his No. 26 Chevrolet for Browning Motorsports.

Rookie Tanner Berryhill grabbed the 40th and final spot, as five cars went home, including the No. 46 of Ryan Ellis.  Kevin Lepage, Derrike Cope, John Jackson and Martin Roy were the other four.

On another note, Milka Duno was guaranteed a spot in the race in the No. 87 CAN TV Toyota and starts 39th in the Ford EcoBoost 300.     

The green flag for today’s race drops shortly at 4:30 p.m. ET and will be shown on ESPN2.

Kyle Magda