Updated: March 11, 2014, 12:12 PM ET

Penske sweeps front row again

By Joe Breeze | ESPN.com


LAS VEGAS -- These Penske cars have this knockout qualifying format figured out.

For the second time in two weeks of elimination-style qualifying, Penske Racing swept the front row.

Joey Logano won the pole Friday afternoon for the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Brad Keselowski will start alongside his Penske teammate on Sunday.

Last week at Phoenix International Raceway, in the first race featuring NASCAR's new knockout qualifying format, Keselowski won the pole and Logano started second.

"To have a Penske front row the last two weekends at two completely different racetracks just goes to show how hard these guys have been working, and when you work hard, results come," Logano said. "We haven't won on Sunday yet … but we've had some good speed in our cars. … We're here to win this year, and we're trying to prove it."

Keselowski held the provisional pole briefly in the third and final qualifying segment Friday before Logano bumped his teammate with a minute to go, setting down a track-record 27.939-second lap (193.278 mph) on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Keselowski had checked in at 27.965 seconds (193.099 mph), which was a short-lived track record.

"We've been very fortunate," Keselowski said of the Penske qualifying machine. "The cars are fast and I don't think it's much more difficult than that. When you have fast cars, it makes your life a lot easier."

Clint Bowyer, the first driver out in the final five-minute qualifying session, will start third after clocking a 28.021-second lap at 192.713 mph. Austin Dillon will start fourth, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman.

It was the Cup series' first attempt at elimination-style qualifying on a 1.5-mile track. Tracks 1.25 miles and longer require three qualifying segments to set the race grid. Shorter tracks such as Phoenix feature only two segments.

Friday at Vegas, the fastest 24 cars advanced to the second session, with the fastest 12 from that pool making the five-minute shootout for the pole.

Vickers had set a then-track record in winning the first segment, turning a  27.980-second lap at 192.995 mph. Among the notables who did not advance out of that session were Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.

Logano was fasted in the second qualifying segment.

Blake Koch, Landon Cassill, J.J. Yeley, Dave Blaney and Joe Nemecheck failed to make the field for Sunday's race.

Finding out what we've got

By Joe Breeze | ESPN.com



Welcome to the heart of the Sprint Cup schedule.

No restrictor-plate track here. No short track, either.

Just a good old-fashioned mile-and-a-half.

The Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, Fox) represents the Cup series' first race this season at a 1.5-mile track. Eleven of the 36 Cup events will be staged on the so-called intermediate tracks -- including half of the 10 Chase races -- and we'll get an inkling of who has what right out of the gate.

Judging by performance levels in 2013, watch out for Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR drivers won seven of the 11 events at intermediate tracks, with team newcomer Matt Kenseth landing in Victory Lane four times. In fact, all three JGR drivers -- Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch included -- posted at least one win at a mile-and-a-half venue last season.

Some water-cooler numbers courtesy of the research group at ESPN.com:

Kenseth's average finish of 5.7 at such tracks in 2013 was a series best. Kevin Harvick ranked second at 7.5 (two wins), followed by Jimmie Johnson at 9.0 (one win).

Johnson, the Cup series' six-time champion, is the all-time leader in wins on 1.5-mile tracks with 18 (a series-high four at Vegas). Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon is next with 16, followed by Tony Stewart (15), Dale Earnhardt (14), Richard Petty (13), Matt Kenseth (12) and Bobby Allison (12).

How will those numbers translate to Vegas this weekend?

Tough to tell with the new aero rules designed by NASCAR to increase downforce and promote better side-by-side racing, particularly at the 1.5-mile tracks. But Thursday's four-hour test at LVMS at least provided a measure of comfort to drivers, including Harvick, who drove the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to victory Sunday at Phoenix.

"I thought it went really well," Harvick said. "We struggled in the beginning just to get the feel. It took us a couple of hours to kind of get everything situated and get the balance of the car right. Then we felt pretty good about it after that. Changed a lot of stuff and did a lot of different things to the car. Felt like we made good headway in the end, and hopefully we can progress on that tomorrow and make it even better."

In other words, strap in … and hold on.

Turn 4 TV: Junior vs. Harvick?

Congratulations to the happy couple

By Joe Breeze | ESPN.com



Romantics fly into Vegas from all over the world to get married.

So why Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

"Why not?" Tim Wade quipped.

"It's our favorite track," Lisa Schreiber said.

"This is our 12th trip here together," Tim said.

Tim and Lisa, of Louisville, Ky., exchanged vows in Victory Lane on Friday morning, Tim in a blue Jimmie Johnson T-shirt and Lisa in a gray Tony Stewart T-shirt. Tim had daughter Shelby Wade at his side, while Lisa stood next to sister Katie Falconer, who held an aluminum bouquet hand-cut from a Bud Light beer can.

The ceremony even featured an impromptu F-16 flyover, courtesy of Nellis Air Force Base down the road.

When Tim said, "I do," Bruce Brown of Racing Ministries yelped, "He said 'I do!' Boogity-boogity!" -- much to the delight of the 20 or so family members, friends and curious onlookers.

Brown's wife, also named Lisa, said later that the Wade-Schreiber wedding was the second of eight scheduled at the track Friday. She said both Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have surprisingly stepped in as a best man at track weddings in years past.

"You never know what could happen," Lisa Brown said, grinning.

Why Vegas?

"It's so them," Shelby Wade said.

By the way, the happy couple said they'd mailed invitations to both Johnson and Stewart. Neither showed up.

"We didn't think they would come," the bride said.

Social moments






Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.