AVONDALE, Ariz. — A few drivers, like Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, raced onto the track to get in their Sprint Cup qualifying sessions Friday. Others waited, some nearly 10 minutes before heading out for the first time.
There were long stretches with almost no activity, followed by mad scrambles to get runs in before time ran out. This first round of NASCAR's new knockout qualifying will take some getting used to.
Keselowski earned the first Sprint Cup pole under the new format, edging Logano with a track-record 139.384 mph for the Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"It's a lot more nerve-racking," Keselowski said. "Usually a pretty good rule of thumb is that if it's more nerve-racking for the drivers, it's a lot more fun for our fans and partners and all those things, and that's a good thing. I'm more interested in feedback from our fans to see if they liked it."
In the new qualifying process, the entire field runs a 30-minute session, with the top 12 advancing to a 10-minute second session. On bigger tracks, the qualifying will have three sessions, with the field cut to 24, then 12.
Keselowski finished behind Logano in the first session. Keselowski trumped his Penske teammate in the second session to earn his fourth career pole for Sunday's race. Logano qualified second at 139.265.
"Unfortunately, we won the wrong one," Logano said. "We won the first one, and our teammate got the second one, but either way, we both had a chance to win something. He just got the trophy to take the pictures with."
Jamie McMurray qualified third and Jimmie Johnson fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts fifth next to Greg Biffle.
SPONSOR BACKS DANICA: GoDaddy chairman Bob Parsons, whose company sponsors Danica Patrick's car, said his driver would beat Hall of Famer Richard Petty in a race. "Danica would win," Parsons said. "For once, she'd be on a level playing field. Just her against Petty. She's a better driver." Petty, 76, challenged Patrick to a race last week after stating she receives preferential treatment as a female.