MADISON, Ill. (AP) — Chase Briscoe finally has a pole to go with his first NASCAR Cup Series victory earlier this season.
The second-year driver for Stewart-Haas Racing drove through a bobble at the end of the backstretch and turned a lap of 138.274 mph on Saturday, giving himself the best starting spot for the first time in his 51st career start.
“The first round I felt like I under-drove extremely bad. The second round I felt like I over-drove,” said Briscoe, who won in March at Phoenix — a track that shares many of the same characteristics with World Wide Technology Raceway.
“It's exciting to be part of the inaugural event here,” he said, “but better to be leading the field to green.”
Austin Cindric gave Ford the front row with a lap of 137.775 mph for Team Penske, while Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick will start in the second row and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five in qualifying.
“I mean, it's cool to be on the pole, right? I say it all the time, I never thought I'd run a Cup race, or even run a Truck race,” Briscoe said. “I think we have a good car capable of winning. We just have to put it all together and minimize or mistakes, and as a driver, that's something I haven't done a very good job of so far this season.”
Cindric was among the fastest during a practice session Friday, which gave many drivers their first look at the track east of downtown St. Louis, and he was near the top of the speed chart throughout Saturday's qualifying.
“The Fords have really brought some speed. The track really suits us,” Cindric said. “It sounds like (Briscoe) screwed up his lap and he's still on the pole, so he's probably going to murder everyone tomorrow.”
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Harrison Burton and Ross Chastain also made the final round of qualifying.
Among those who didn't was Brad Keselowski, who was back in 30th after another poor session. He didn't have much speed when he unloaded Friday and lamented the changes to NASCAR's weekend schedules, which have taken away most of the practice time that once gave teams a chance to make adjustments to their cars.
“It's always hard to go backward, but we've been here three days and we had an hour to practice,” Keselowski said. “I don't know how that saves us much money over having a 3-hour practice session.”
Keselowski envisions a return to the old setup of practice and qualifying on Friday and a final practice Saturday before Sunday races, which would be especially helpful as he grows and develops his team. But he also thinks the setup has the ability to help everyone in the garage area, whether teams are established or not.
The condensed weekend schedule was supposed to help teams contain spiraling costs. But in many cases, the lack of on-track practice has led to more crashes, more wrecked cars and in some cases even more money spent.
“From an owner standpoint, I don't think we're saving a significant amount of money,” Keselowski said. “We saved a million or two in travel but we spend it all in simulators and engineering. It's time for a deep dive into the weekend schedule.”
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