Brad Keselowski grabs first Cup win of 2017 at Atlanta after Kevin Harvick penalty


Brad Keselowski passed Kyle Larson with seven laps remaining and raced unchallenged to his first win of the 2017 NASCAR Cup season in the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The door was opened for Keselowski after Kevin Harvick, the race’s pole-sitter and winner of the first two stages, was called for speeding during a caution 15 laps from the finish. Harvick led 292 laps.

The Team Penske driver had bounced back two unscheduled pit stops. The first was on Lap 117 for a tire problem. He was later forced to pit a second time right before a Lap 270 restart for a loose tire. Keselowski had beat Harvick off pit road and would have restarted first.

“This one kind of fell in our lap at the end and my team put it all together when it counted,” Keselowski said. “They gave me a great Auto Trader Ford Fusion and we were able to get by Kyle (Larson) there at the end. I knew that he wasn’t going to be easy to pass. His car was great and I was able to make the right moves to get by him.””

With his 22nd Cup Series victory, Keselowski earned his first Atlanta win in nine starts at the track. It was the No. 2 team’s first win since Keselowski’s victory at Kentucky Speedway last July.

“When you win, you don’t know if you’re ever going to win again,” Keselowski told Fox Sports. “You go through some spells. Gosh it feels good to get one early in the season like this.”

Completing the top five was Larson, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott.

Harvick finished ninth.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Matt Kenseth bounced back from a speeding penalty to finish third, his third top five in the last five Atlanta races … Martin Truex Jr. was caught speeding in the third stage of the race but managed to finished eighth … Larson led seven laps before finishing second, his first top five in four Atlanta starts … Kahne earned his first top five of the season. In 2016, his first of three didn’t come until the ninth race of the season …

WHO HAD A BAD RACE:  Clint Bowyer smacked the wall with 47 to go after losing a tire, but finished 11th on the lead lap … Richard Childress Racing batteries: Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman each fell victim to them in the final stage of the race, finishing 32nd and 35th respectively … Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson was caught speeding twice on pit road and finished 19th, a lap down  … Denny Hamlin finished 38th after going to the garage twice, initially for a burnt wheel hub … After multiple tire issues and a speeding penalty, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 30th, five laps down

NOTABLE: Larson has been passed for the lead with under 10 to in each of the last three races … Harvick’s 292 laps led are the most ever at Atlanta by a driver who failed to win. He has led the most laps in the last four races at Atlanta but failed to win all four.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “I have to go find Marcus Smith and Ed Clark and beg them not to repave it (the track). I don’t think that I’ll win that battle. Atlanta has always been one of those old school race tracks, look at victory lane…we’re out here on the frontstretch… it feels old school. A great place to win. A track that I haven’t won at before. Gosh darn it, it feels good.” – Brad Keselowski after he first Cup win at Atlanta.

Starting grid for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400

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With the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career, Kyle Larson will lead the field to green Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Joining Larson the front row is Denny Hamlin.

Filling out the top five is Brad Keselowski, Martin Treux Jr. and Ryan Newman.

Click here for the starting grid.

Kyle Larson wins pole for Auto Club 400, second Cup pole of career

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Kyle Larson ended a three-year drought by winning the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400.

Larson won his second Cup Series pole with a speed of 187.047 mph around Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. His first pole came in the August 2013 race at Pocono Raceway.

The pole continues Larson’s impressive start to 2017. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver leads the point standings after earning three consecutive second-place finishes.

“I felt like messed up there in Turn 1 and 2 and I got a little bit loose off the wall on the entry and it got me to split the seam in (Turn) 1 and 2,” Larson told Fox Sports. “I was able to commit to (being) wide open off (Turn) 1 and 2. I hadn’t ran up high in (Turn) 3 and 4 at all in practice or qualifying here. Didn’t really know what I would have out there but ran a good ways and it stuck. … Our Target team has been really amazing to start the season and to get a pole is great. … Got a little team dinner tonight, so this will be a good thing to celebrate.”

Larson’s run knocked Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin from the top spot. As Larson drove down pit road, a Fox Sports camera caught Hamlin playfully showing his dissatisfaction by emptying a cup of ice in the direction of the No. 42.

“This is No. 1 on my list of track I want to win,” Hamlin told Fox Sports. “It’s bitten me mentally and physically … definitely one I want to check off.”

Filling out the top five is Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Newman.

Daniel Suarez qualified 10th for his best career Cup start.

No Hendrick Motorsports entries will start in the top 10. Kasey Kahne was the top qualifier in 12th, followed by Chase Elliott.

Five cars did not make qualifying attempts, with one of them being by choice. Jimmie Johnson’s team elected not to make an attempt following his accident in practice. He will start 37th.

Joining Johnson at the back of the field will be Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Matt DiBenedetto and Gray Gaulding. All of their cars did not make it through inspection in time to qualifying.

Click here for qualifying results.

Jimmie Johnson’s team elects not to make qualifying run after accident in practice

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Following Jimmie Johnson’s accident in practice early Friday, Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 team chose not to qualify with a backup car at Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson, a six-time winner at Auto Club Speedway, will start 37th in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Four other cars, including those of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne, will start in the back after they did not make qualifying attempts. Their cars failed to get through inspection in time. Rookie Gray Gaulding and Matt DiBenedetto also did not qualify because their cars failed to get through inspection.

Johnson explained his team’s decision.

“We had a tough practice session and mid-pack was probably going to be our goal anyway,” he said. “So, to take our lumps here, at a track that’s really wide with a lot of lanes, a long race; we’ll just take our lumps and get the car right where we can take advantage of the precious minutes that we have in Saturday’s practice session and go from there. Pit road is going to be a problem. We’re not going to have a great pick there. We’re definitely not in a position we want to be in, so we’d rather take the time now and make sure we get everything right and get this car right; and also kind of control our risk factor.”

With ACS being such a wide race track with plenty of passing opportunities, Johnson is not in as bad a position to start Sunday’s race as he would be at more narrow track.

Crew chief Chad Knaus told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Claire B. Lang he wasn’t comfortable forcing Johnson to “hustle” to qualify a car he hadn’t practiced in.

Joey Logano completes sweep of Xfinity practices at Auto Club Speedway

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Joey Logano was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session at Auto Club Speedway for the Service King 300.

Driving Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford, Logano put up a speed of 176.804 mph on his 19th of 35 laps in the session

The top five as made up of Erik Jones (176.744), Paul Menard (176.587), Brandon Jones (176.475) and Kyle Larson (176.039).

William Byron and Brennan Poole recorded the most laps in the session with 37 each.

Logan also had the best 10-lap average at 174.889 mph.

Click here for the full practice report.