HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 14, 2014) — A new track record was set Friday night as Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, broke the Homestead-Miami Speedway track qualifying record with his 181.238 mph lap in the first round of the Coors Lite Pole Qualifying for the Ford EcoBoost 400. It is the fifth qualifying record Keselowski set this year, and the 24th track qualifying record set this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series season.
Another record was set at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night as Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, won the 200th Coors Light Pole for Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon will start at the front of the field for Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday. This is his first pole in 16 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I think today’s pole just proves and shows why they have 200 poles. It’s a great organization. We just never quit. We always are bringing great race cars and great power to the racetrack and just surrounded by good people, and that’s what contributes to wins and to poles,” said Gordon.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 marks the Championship race in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet, compete in the Championship Round, all battling for their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. For Sunday’s race, Harvick starts in the fifth spot, Hamlin in the eighth spot, Logano in the ninth spot and Newman in the 21st spot.
This year presented a challenge for the drivers as the qualifying system for the Sprint Cup Series was revamped. Previously, the drivers raced in two laps and the faster of those two laps determined the starting order. However, in the new qualifying format, there are three rounds. In the first round, all cars qualify collectively for up to 25 minutes and the top 24 drivers advance to a 10-minute session. In the third and final round, the 12 drivers with the best lap times have five minutes to compete for a position at the front of the field.
Qualifying is not the only thing that has changed in the Sprint Cup Series this year. Although this is the 13th straight year in which the Sprint Cup Champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it is the first time in the 11 years of the Chase that four drivers will begin the race, all with the same chance of earning the title.
Of the four drivers, only Hamlin has won a Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, having emerged victorious last year and in 2009. And he is as confident heading into Sunday’s race as he was a year ago at this time.
“It feels good. It feels good,” Hamlin said following Friday’s qualifying. “Last year I knew we were going to win the race. I knew in practice we were going to win the race, and my car feels equally as good this time around.”