Brad Keselowski tops Jimmie Johnson in qualifying

Brad Keselowski topped rival Jimmie Johnson in qualifying Friday for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at...

Brad Keselowski topped rival Jimmie Johnson in qualifying Friday for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Speedway. Johnson leads his rival by seven points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:23 PM ET

The winner of the first round in the penultimate race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski topped rival Jimmie Johnson in qualifying Friday for Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Speedway.

Actually Kyle Busch won the pole on a lap of 138.766 m.p.h. in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but all eyes were on Johnson and Keselowski, separated by seven points in the standings, with two races left on the calendar.

Although there are no points awarded in qualifying in NASCAR, it does provide Keselowski with a psychological edge heading into Sunday’s race.

Johnson had won the pole in the two most recent Cup events at Martinsville and Texas which helped him get past Keselowski in the Chase race.

When the race goes Sunday Keselowski will start 14th on his lap of 136.622 m.p.h. and Johnson way back in 24th spot on his lap of 135.440 m.p.h.

And already it appears that the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage has started taking sides in the contest to be the next champion of their sport.

Danica Patrick said that she favours the No. 48 team with five-time champion Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus based on friendship, although she does have a soft spot for underdogs like Keselowski.

“I like Jimmie and I like Chad and I know them pretty well,” Patrick said. “So I tend to cheer for the people that I know best. But I also love a new champion and I love a little bit of an underdog and that’s probably impossible to kind of describe Brad as that.

“But with a guy like Jimmie that has done it five times, I guess you would have to put (Keselowski) as an underdog. I cheer for both stories.”

Clint Bowyer, who, up until Johnson and Keselowski put a stranglehold on the Chase, was in the running with his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, said he is going with Johnson to win it all for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.

“I would probably go with the one that’s done it before,” he said. “Well, he’s done that five times now and the other one hasn’t. The odds are in his court.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Johnson, but was instrumental in giving Keselowski his start in NASCAR’s big leagues hiring him to drive the for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.

He thinks that Keselowski do anything to win attitude will serve him well on Sunday at PIR and next week at Homestead Miami Speedway.

“He’ll stay out on two tires, no tires; try to run himself out of gas, and all kinds of crazy stuff,” Earnhardt said of Keselowski. “They are willing to really gamble. That makes them kind of dangerous in that aspect.”

Defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart is taking sides.

He said that it is still too early to pick a winner.

“It’s way too close to try to pick anybody,” he said. “You still have a 300 lap race (on Sunday); a 500-mile race next weekend, and there are 41 other guys on the race track that can make or break their weekend.

“And they can do it to themselves; or their pit crews. There are so many things that can happen. It’s not like trying to pick a winning team in a football, basketball or baseball game. It’s not that easy.”

FINISH LINES

Patrick likes the big stage and there is no bigger stage in sports than the Super Bowl, She has been a part of it for the past five seasons and she will be again this season in her racy GoDaddy.com commercials. There had been speculation that Patrick was going to be dropped but the company announced Thursday that Patrick will appear in both of the website domain provider’s commercials during the Super Bowl. ... Richard Childress Racing will have Honey Nut Cherrios as its marque sponsor for the No. 33 Chevrolet with Austin Dillon behind the wheel at the 2013 Daytona 500 ... Former CART IndyCar champion Alex Zanardi tested a DTM BMW M3 this past week leading to speculation that the double amputee will drive in next year’s DTM sports car series. The double Paralympic gold medalist completed 32 laps at the Nurburgring in a BMW adorned with a paint job to acknowledge his two golds and one silver he won at this summer’s London Paralympics.

EDMONTON TEEN SHINES

Kelly Admiraal will graduate from Millwoods Christian High School in Edmonton next spring but his education has taken a sudden left turn — make that a lot of left turns.

The 17-year-old Admiraal hopes by the time he gets his diploma he will be on the fast track to a career in NASCAR stock car racing.

If what he accomplished Friday at Phoenix International Raceway is any indication, that could be a short trip.

Admiraal, in only his second appearance in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West car — and his first on a one-mile oval — was 12th fastest at 128.908 m.p.h. of 31 cars during final practice on Friday for Saturday’s Casino Arizona 50, one of the undercards for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup AdvoCare 500.

This is the same race that launched the career of Ryan Blaney— now in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Penske Racing — who was also 17 when he won last year’s event.

The K&N West Series is also where Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick cut his racing teeth.

“When we came here our goal was to be in the Top 25,” Admiraal said of his practice laps in the No. 83 Chevrolet.

The top driver on the day was another teenager with a big future — Chase Elliott, son of former Sprint Cup Champion Bill Elliott — who topped the speed chart at 132.037 m.p.h.

Admiraal started racing GoKarts at age seven and moved up to racing Sprint Cars on the 3/8th mile dirt oval at Castrol Raceway in Leduc, Alta.

It was only last season that he began driving stock cars.

“I fell in love with them from my first race,” Admiraal said.

This season he drove in the Super Late Models series at Edmonton International Raceway and in his first K&N race at NAPA Speedway in Albuquerque, N.M., where he finished 11th in the No. 83 Chevrolet.

In an nod to his native land Admiraal will honour Canada’s war heroes with a special Remembrance Day paint scheme on Saturday.

“I just felt it was something important to do on this weekend,” he said.

 

 

 

 


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