Joey Logano surprised himself Friday night. The Penske Racing driver didn’t think he had the speed, but was able to find enough to score the pole Friday night and will lead the field to the green for Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Logano, who is also the defending winner of this race, was 10th in the second round of the three round session but the team made some adjustments and Logano put down his pole winning lap,21.248 127.071 miles per hour, with just over 1:20 seconds to go in the final five minute round.
“When you are sitting 11th on the board you only have one spot to lose so we went for it and she turned and off she went,” Logano said. “That isn’t normal for us. Normally we are really fast in the first run and it is hard for us to stay that fast all the way through. The guys did a great job getting us faster today. “
The pole was the 11th of Logano’s career, his series high third of the season and his first Sprint Cup pole at Richmond. Denny Hamlin who earlier in the day said he is fully recovered from neck spasms that forced him out of the race after 22 laps at Bristol, will roll off second.
“We just lost a little bit too much grip that final run and came up a little bit short,” said Hamlin a two time Richmond winner. “Still, if you had asked me before today, I would have taken second and moved on. I think the longer runs (in race trim) typically suit us a little bit better, but having a good starting spot, though, will definitely be a benefit for us (on Saturday) night.”
The story of the three round knockout qualifying session belonged to Hendrick Motorsports. Three of their five entries failed to advance out of the first round. Kasey Kahne will start 40th after using owner points, Jimmie Johnson 36th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 26th.
“I’m really puzzled,” Johnson said. “We had such a great practice session, in race and qualifying trim; so I’m just scratching my head, big-time, right now. We’ll try to figure out what happened and then prepare for the race. Like I said, we had a great race practice in the first session. A tenth there, in qualifying trim in the second session. And I really had high hopes for a good starting spot, but we’re far from that.”
Jeff Gordon will start 11th and a fifth entry piloted by Chase Elliott will start 16th . Saturday will mark Elliott’s second Sprint Cup start as he prepares to replace Gordon full time next season.
“Didn’t want to get greedy but we wanted to get to that last 12 and we gave it a good effort,” Elliott said. “We picked up our second time out but it wasn’t enough. So I just can’t say enough about all these guys, Kenny Francis, the 5/24 shop and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. I felt like our car in race trim was okay today and actually felt like we were better there than in qualifying. So hopefully we can improve from where we start and try and move forward.”
Jeb Burton and Brendan Gaughan failed to make the field. The full qualifying results can be found here. The full lineup here. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway is scheduled to start just after 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday night with live coverage on FOX starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.
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