|Logano sets track record in qualifying at Michigan|
|Saturday, August 17, 2013 12:26 AM|
BROOKLYN, Mich. — On another record-setting day at Michigan International Speedway, Joey Logano raced to one of the fastest qualifying speeds in NASCAR history.
Logano won the pole at 203.949 mph Friday in his No. 22 Ford, breaking the track record set by Marcos Ambrose last year. Ambrose’s mark of 203.241 came on the first Sprint Cup weekend on a newly paved surface at MIS. His record lasted 14 months.
Logano’s speed was the ninth-highest by a NASCAR pole winner — and the fastest since Bill Elliott set the record of 212.809 at Talladega on April 30, 1987.
“I don’t know how fast it is but it feels freaking fast,” Logano said.
Kurt Busch qualified second and points leader Jimmie Johnson was third.
Logano is 16th in the Cup standings and this is his first pole of the year. He could use a good showing this weekend as he tries to make a final push to reach the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Logano is 27 points behind 10th-place Martin Truex Jr. and hasn’t won a race this season. But a victory at Michigan could change everything, vaulting him closer to Chase position on points and boosting his chances at a wild card.
There are four races left before the Chase.
“We’re 27 points out. That doesn’t sound like a lot but the amount of cars that are in between us is a lot,” Logano added. “We’re one bad race from saying, ‘we’re out.’ So we’ve got to make the most out of these four.”
It’s the sixth career pole for the 23-year-old Logano. He’s coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes, although he hasn’t won in over a year. Logano finished ninth at Michigan in June.
Busch is in 11th place in the standings, so his solid starting position comes at a good time for him. Busch started second in this year’s earlier race at MIS but finished 35th.
“It’s really neat to overlay exactly what we did here in June, when we were outside pole, and try to improve on that,” Busch said. “The pace today was just quick. It was just an extreme pace that the qualifying simulations were showing us. I shot for a 35.35 (seconds) in my mind for a lap time and ran a 35.347. I thought it would be good enough for the pole but Logano just hit it perfectly.”
Despite the high speeds, Busch said his ride was pretty smooth.
“When your car is good, it’s very stable,” Busch added. “When you run 203 mph and you’re kicking yourself a little bit like I am for just going in a little too light, that’s just because the car was stable. So 203 mph is not a problem.
“That’s what Dave Ferroni, my PR guy, asked. He said, ‘Is that the fastest you’ve ever gone around a track in a stock car, average speed-wise?’ And I said, ‘Unbelievable. At 203 mph it didn’t feel like it’.”
Mark Martin qualified fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh. Defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski was ninth.
Johnson has never won in 23 Cup races at Michigan.
“Of course we wanted to be a little bit better but we had a very smooth and clean practice session made some good changes to the car and found speed as the session went on,” Johnson said. “Came close to getting another pole during qualifying, so all in all just really good.”
Grand-Am series to make debut at Kansas Speedway
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The new road course at Kansas Speedway will get its first real taste of speed this weekend when the Grand-Am series visits the 2.37-mile circuit for the first time.
There’s a lot riding on tonight’s race, too.
The merger between the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series announced earlier this year means Kansas Speedway could be left out of a combined schedule next season. More established venues such as Road Atlanta and Daytona are virtually assured of dates, making it more difficult for a newcomer such as Kansas to land a race weekend.
“The issue is simply math,” Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren said. “How many races are there going to be on the schedule next year? How many places are they going to go and which tracks may or may not be included? I don’t think it’s a reflection on Kansas Speedway. It’s not a reflection on the track or the market and it’s not a reflection on the long-term.”
Indeed, even if Kansas Speedway is left off the schedule of the rebranded United SportsCar Racing series next year, Warren told reporters it would aggressively pursue future races.
“They have to make some decisions for 2014 that are some tough decisions,” he added. “As they try to figure out how they want to grow the series, what they want to do to bring the two series together, we just don’t know where we fit in that picture.”
Rather than focus on things they can’t control, Warren and his team are focusing on what they can: a strong sports car debut that could convince series powerbrokers to stick around.
Officials are anticipating a crowd of about 15,000 — and are hopeful for more than 20,000 with good weather — for tonight’s Grand-Am Rolex Series race. The 2-hour, 45-minute race highlights two days of events at Kansas Speedway that also include today’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge developmental series and two races in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.
The early feedback from drivers about the surface has been positive.
Daytona Prototypes were doing more than 190 mph on the main track before reaching Turn 1, the most demanding on the circuit. The tight left-hander sends cars through an S-curve and down the back straightway before a hairpin turns sends them on the return. They get back on the main track in Turn 2, head down the backstretch and through Turns 3 and 4 to complete a lap.
“It’s a very challenging track, I can tell you,” said Max Angelelli, a former Rolex series champion. “It’s not like you approach a corner, brake, turn, go back on throttle, and that’s it. You have two corners that are extremely technical.”
Angelelli and teammate Jordan Taylor are chasing point leaders Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow as they enter the 10th stop on the 12-race schedule. Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney are second in points with familiar names such as Christian Fittipaldi and Scott Pruett also giving chase.
“It’s one of the fastest tracks we’ve been to,” said Oswaldo Negri Jr., who turned some of the quickest laps at Kansas during last year’s testing session.
“It’s one of the hardest ovals that we have gone to; it is much faster than Homestead or any of the others. There aren’t many passing zones but the track is fun to drive and we had a good car when we tested there, so I am looking forward to being back.”
Funny Car points leader Hagan tops qualifying
BRAINERD, Minn. — Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan topped qualifying Friday in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Hagan had a run of 4.044 seconds at 315.34 mph in his Dodge Charger. He has four event victories this year.
“This whole year has been phenomenal,” Hagan said. “We’re going to keep working hard. Dickie (Venables, crew chief) put a great horse under me and I’m riding it. We have a consistent car and it shows on the track and in the points.”
Clay Millican led the Top Fuel field and Vincent Nobile topped Pro Stock qualifying. Millican had a 3.773 at 326.63 and Nobile finished in 6.580 at 209.43.