Cheryl Senter Associated Press Brad Keselowski climbs from his car after posting the top qualifying time. The defending Sprint Cup champion is winless this season.

Cup champion Keselowski wins his first pole of season

Published: Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 15, 2013 - 6:57 am

LOUDON, N.H. – Brad Keselowski is back on top of NASCAR.

Well, for a race, at least.

But he's quickly running out of time to make it back to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship and defend his series crown.

His first pole of the season might give his season the boost he needs to become a contender.

Keselowski turned a lap of 135.922 mph Friday to set a track record at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Keselowski won only his third career pole and first since 2011. With eight races left until the 12-driver Chase field is set, Keselowski is winless and sitting in an uncomfortable 13th place in the point standings.

"There is a sense of urgency but not a sense of panic," Keselowski said. "I think there is a strong difference between the two. We are eager to get going, we are hungry and feel like we can do it, but I don't feel a sense of panic. There are still two months of racing essentially to get into the Chase."

Keselowski led a fast day at the track as nine drivers topped the previous track record held by Ryan Newman, who went 135.232 in 2011.

Kurt Busch will join Keselowski on the front row. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon round out the top five. Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Jeff Burton all topped Newman's record.

Ten drivers topped that lap until points leader Jimmie Johnson's second-fastest qualifying time was scrapped after his car failed inspection. His No. 48 Chevrolet, which had two issues in the pre-qualifying inspection, failed after his attempt because both sides of the front were too low. He'll start in the rear in 43rd.

"We were able to get the car right," crew chief Chad Knaus said. "just not exactly right."

Among those Johnson will start behind is 71-year-old Morgan Shepherd, who will become the oldest driver to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Shepherd, who went only 128.290 in qualifying, made his Cup debut in 1970 and won four times in NASCAR's top series. He finished as high as fifth in the final standings in 1990 and hasn't started a race since 2006.

Gordon had no problem with Shepherd being in the race Sunday.

"I think that's quite an accomplishment," Gordon said. "We talk about how amazing it is to see Mark Martin out there being competitive over 50 years old (54), but to just go out there and do what he does as far as Morgan is concerned at 71, that's amazing."

IndyCar in Toronto – Dario Franchitti has won the pole for the first of two weekend races through the streets of Toronto.

Franchitti had a small crash in the morning practice session, and his Target Chip Ganassi crew had to hustle to repair his car in time for qualifying. He responded with three flawless qualifying sessions to take the top starting spot in today's race.

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