ARTICLE

Keselowski energized for busy weekend

Auto racing notes: Sprint Cup champion travels between Iowa and Pennsylvania, Herring earns first Nationwide pole, teenager makes K&N Pro Series history

NEWTON - Brad Keselowski has enough fuel in his tank for two races separated by about 1,000 miles.

The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion hasn't been stuck idling this weekend, traveling between Iowa Speedway and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. It is better than the alternative.

"Beats sitting at home doing nothing," Keselowski cracked after Saturday's qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 in Newton.

Keselowski pulled double-duty for Team Penske, racing in the Nationwide event in Iowa on Saturday night and the Sprint Cup Gobowling.com 400 in Long Pond, Pa., at 1 p.m. Sunday. He flew back and forth, arriving here about an hour before qualifying fifth.

The weekend opened with Sprint Cup qualifying at Pocono and then some practice at Iowa Speedway on Friday. Practice at Pocono was rained out, so he returned to qualify Team Penske's No. 22 car.

It is nothing new. Keselowski did the same thing in 2010, when he was the Nationwide points leader.

"It's part of my job," Keselowski said. "I'll get some sleep on the plane."

Team Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., drove the No. 22 in the first practice Friday and broke down the car. He said Keselowski was happy with the initial setup and changes.

"It's always about communication," Hornish said. "It is nothing special this weekend with him going back and forth."

Hornish followed Keselowski during qualifying. At the time, they ranked at first and second. Keselowski walked to Hornish's window to talk about their respective runs immediately after Hornish parked.

"He just wanted to know what I thought about the car, where we were at and how it handled," said Hornish, who qualified 14th. "We're not vastly different with our cars, but we do have some differences."

Keselowski is winless in Sprint Cup competition, sitting 13th in the points standings. He did drive the No. 22 to victory lane at the Nationwide race in Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Kentucky Speedway. He is tied for 10th all-time with 22 career Nationwide wins.

His appearance will mark the first time the defending Sprint Cup champion will compete at Iowa Speedway. He was surrounded by fans for autographs and photos at his trailer and mobbed again after qualifying.

"I'm glad to be here," said Keselowski, who considers his 2009 Nationwide win at Iowa Speedway a career highlight. "I'm a big believer you go where you are wanted and the fans here love racing and want us to be here."

Herring earns first pole

Drew Herring claimed his first NASCAR Nationwide Series pole in 11 career races Saturday, posting the top qualifying time for the U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. Herring, the 26-year-old for Joe Gibbs Racing, recorded a speed of 135.367 miles per hour.

It was just his second top-10 start of the season, beginning the Nationwide Series DuPont Pioneer 250 at Iowa Speedway in June. He finished 11th in that race.

Joey Gase opened with one of his best qualifying runs. Gase was 27th after qualifying, which is one spot back of his best this season.

"I was pretty happy with it," Gase said. "We're a lot better than we were (in practice) Friday."

Gase is running for Jimmy Means Racing. His best finish so far this season is 27th (twice) in 11 starts. Confidence was at a high after the run. Gase's best Nationwide finish was 20th in this race in 2011, which was also his series debut.

"It helps a lot knowing you're actually going to have a pretty good car," Gase said.

Teenager makes history

The weekend opened with a record-setting performance.

Cole Custer won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Pork Be Inspired 150 on Friday night at Iowa Speedway. The 15-year-old Custer became the youngest winner ever in the series. He improved the mark set by Dylan Kwasniewski, who won at age 16.

Custer, of Ladera Ranch, Calif., won his first K&N Series pole earlier in the day. He was also the first driver to lead every lap in a race combining East and West divisions of the K&N Pro Series. Custer finished nearly three seconds ahead of runner-up Eddie MacDonald.

According to nascar.com, Custer is the son of Stewart-Haas Racing executive Joe Custer.“We had a very dominant car,” Custer said in an article on nascar.com. “The car was perfect the whole race. Our guys put a lot of work into this car. We’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time. We came back here with a really strong car. It was just perfect the whole night.”

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