Since NASCAR announced the new format for Sprint Cup Series qualifying in 2014, Joey Logano and Team Penske have been showing the competition how it’s done.
Logano will start on the pole for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. It’s his third pole of the season and fifth front-row start in nine races.
“The lap didn’t actually feel good because you have seven or eight laps on your tires and the car is sliding around a lot,” Logano told FOX Sports 1. “It’s funny that the pole-sitting car is sliding around all over the place.”
Entering the weekend as the reigning spring Richmond winner, Logano and the No. 22 team have momentum on their side.
“It’s not normal for us,” said Logano. “Normally we are really fast in the first run and it’s hard for us to stay that fast throughout. The guys did a great job in keeping this thing fast and getting it faster.”
“I thought after that second round, and the times that were set, that we were sitting in pretty good position to get a pole,” Hamlin said. “But our car just lost too much grip that last run.”
For Hendrick Motorsports however, three of the five teams have bitter feelings following dreadful qualifying laps.
Three-time Richmond winner Jimmie Johnson slid his car off turn 4 and was unable to make up for the lost rubber on his tires, qualifying 37th, a career worst at the Virginia track.
Johnson was puzzled with the result, saying, “we had such a great practice session for race and qualifying trim. Just scratching my head big time right now so we’ll try to figure out what happened and then prepare for the race.”
Although leading final practice earlier in the day, Kasey Kahne was three spots behind Johnson in 40th position.
“It felt really bad,” said Kahne who pointed his finger at the tires as the culprit to the lack of speed. “It’s like the left sides were up and wouldn’t turn. My splitter wasn’t down anything, which to me is definitely something to do with tires because we didn’t change anything. I’ve been bouncing on the splitter in practice and right there I didn’t even feel it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also struggled to advance to the second round, qualifying 26th.
Rounding out the top 10 is Kurt Busch in third and AJ Allmendinger who, starting fourth, grabs his third top-five start at Richmond since 2010. Kevin Harvick is fifth, with Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Ragan rounding out the top 10.