Qualifying Rainout Puts Kyle Larson On pole For Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 At Kentucky

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kyle Larson (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Larson (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR)

SPARTA, Ky. – Kyle Larson got good news Friday afternoon when NASCAR canceled Sprint Cup Series qualifying for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 race at Kentucky Speedway.

With the field set by rainout rules, Larson will start on the pole for the 18th Cup race of the season because he posted the fastest time in the only practice the elements have allowed so far this week.

Larson ran a lap at 182.537 mph in a truncated 50-minute practice session that was halted by rain at 11:20 a.m. on Friday. Defending race winner Brad Keselowski will start beside Larson on the front row after posting a practice lap at 181.641 mph.

Taking the green flag from the third position will be Jeff Gordon, who has won a Sprint Cup race at every active track with the exception of Kentucky. Joey Logano will start fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin.

Kyle Busch is ninth, with last week’s Daytona race winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., starting 10th.

NASCAR opted to cancel qualifying in favor of giving Cup teams additional practice time with the low-downforce aerodynamic package introduced for the Kentucky race.

NASCAR XFINITY Series qualifying also was canceled, putting JJ Yeley on the pole for Friday night’s scheduled Kentucky 300.

“Looking at all the factors and variables involved, including the fact that we are running a new rules package for the Sprint Cup Series here at Kentucky Speedway, we have determined that this schedule is in the best interests of safety and in the best interests of putting on the most competitive events that we possibly can Friday and Saturday evenings,” NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp said.

Larson was happy that teams got a chance to practice with the new package, even though the session was abbreviated.

“I was glad we got a little bit of track time there,” Larson said. “We were quick off the truck, which I was really proud of my team for, just because we haven’t had any laps on this new package, unlike some other teams that have gotten to do some testing.

“So I was happy with that. We were quick in race trim off the truck, and then we went to mock qualifying trim, and we were really fast. I was able to lay down a really fast lap.”

If the rainout was good news for Larson, it was another blow for Wood Brothers Racing and driver Ryan Blaney, who was one of three competitors (along with Michael McDowell and Travis Kvapil) who failed to make the field based on a lower number of qualifying attempts this year.

Blaney was knocked out of the race by rain for the second straight week.

“The rules are the rules,” said team co-owner Eddie Wood. “In the event of a rainout, they set the field by attempts, which means how many races you’ve attempted to race this year. So us and the 95 (McDowell) have attempted less races than 43 other guys, so we’re the ones that are out, but that’s not a new rule. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, and then they set the field by the practice speeds.

“A lot of times people get it confused with how it works, but we’ve gone a long time and not missed a race with weather. Missing races, if you’re slow and you miss a race because you’re not fast enough, is a bad deal. That just kills your soul, but you can’t do anything about the weather. We’ve been really lucky for the past seven years and haven’t missed one, but now the numbers seem to be leveling out. I’ve always heard that numbers always level out, and that’s kind of what’s going on.

“We’re going to run next week at Loudon, so we’ll head up that way and hope we don’t get rained out. I’m going to stop looking at weather apps, I tell you that. I’m done as far as that is concerned.”

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