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Keselowski wins pole for NASCAR playoff race at Richmond

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By HANK KURZ Jr.

AP Sports Writer

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Brad Keselowski has won the pole for Saturday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway.

Keselowski earned his second career pole at Richmond and the 17th of his career with a lap at 127.185 miles per hour. It will be his 16th top-10 start in 28 races this year, and he'll be looking to match his performance in 2014 when he won here from the pole position.

"The car drove very, very well," Keselowski said, adding that he didn't participate in the two daytime practice sessions because the conditions were going to be so different with the sun not quite so high in the sky. "We've had exceptional short-run speed here the last few times, again this weekend, but then the races seem to be playing out with long runs.

"If we can just hold on with the short-run speed we have on the long runs, we'll be in good shape for this weekend."

Kevin Harvick finished second at 126.559 mph, followed by Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

"It's really just about protecting yourself at this point and starting in the front of the field sets you up good to score some points in stage one and get a good pit stall selection," Harvick said. "It gets everything going and it's really survive and advance."

Local favorite Denny Hamlin, who grew up about 20 miles away, will start sixth and championship leader Martin Truex Jr. eighth.

Here are some other things to watch in Saturday night's race:

UNRELIABLE NARRATOR

Elliott was pleased with his effort, but cautiously so.

"We qualified second here a couple of years ago and ran really bad in the race, so I tend to not get excited over qualifying efforts at this place," he said. "If the car drives good and we don't mess up and I don't mess up and have good pit stops, we'll have a shot at it."

Elliott actually started second in April 2018 at Richmond, but also finished second.

SWEET 16

All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the playoffs will start in the top 16.

Kyle Busch, a six-time winner here, will start fourth and three-time Richmond winner Hamlin will start sixth. Truex, who won on a short track for the first time at Richmond in April 2019, will start eighth and Erik Jones will start 16th, mirroring his spot in the championship.

WHAT TO EXPECT

A repeat winner.

Besides Hamlin, Harvick and Jimmie Johnson have also won three times at Richmond and Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer have each won twice. There will be 38 drivers in the field, but only 11 have won on the track.

PASSING FANCY

Difficulty passing has been a hot topic in the series this year, but Keselowski said long green flag runs could remedy that.

"If you get long runs it becomes an easy track to pass at because the mechanical grip is pretty low and you really have to drive the cars and the aero grip kind of evens out because everybody is in traffic," he said.

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Updated September 20, 2019

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