Due to bad weather, NASCAR opted to hold practice instead qualifying Friday at Kentucky Speedway. As a result, Kyle Larson will take pole position for Saturday night's Quaker State 400 after recording the fastest speed in a truncated morning practice session. NASCAR set the field by a combination of practice speeds and owners points.
The call to abandon qualifying came after persistent rain washed out a planned open test Wednesday, and again Thursday. The test was to allow teams time to acclimate to a new rules package set to debut this weekend. The package was designed to stimulate the on-track product and create more passing opportunities.
Testing was rescheduled for Friday morning, but rain again proved problematic with drivers getting just 50 minutes to turn laps. The sanctioning body then decided to stage an additional practice session in lieu of qualifying late Friday afternoon.
The decision to cancel time trials created some controversy. Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Travis Kvapil were prevented from racing Saturday night, making it the second consecutive week that Blaney and McDowell failed qualify due to weather.
"Unreal," McDowell tweeted. "Weather is clear and track drying is underway and @NASCAR cancels qualifying again. Let's just make the rules up as we go. #2Weeks"
Right there with you bud. https://t.co/Lx859IwoQz— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) July 10, 2015
Blaney had posted 16th-fastest in practice. However, because Wood Brothers Racing is running a limited scheduled the team was not high enough in points to earn a starting position.
"Missing races, if you're slow and you miss a race because you're not fast enough, is a bad deal," co-owner Eddie Wood said. "That just kills your soul, but you can't do anything about the weather. We've been really lucky for the past seven years and haven't missed one, but now the numbers seem to be leveling out."
That Larson (182.537 mph) was the quickest driver in practice didn't surprise him. He was confident he had a fast car, just uncertain whether he would have the chance to showcase it.
Brad Keselowski will line up second. Completing the top five starters are Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr.
"We were quick in race-trim off the truck," Larson said. "And then we went to mock qualifying trim and we were really fast; I was able to lay down a really fast lap.
"I'm happy with how the day has been. I feel bad for the teams that aren't going to get a shot to qualify, but it's nice that we'll get some more practice in once the track dries up and try and learn this new package even more."