Feb 28, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT
After winning the 2012 Sprint Cup championship, 2013 was a tough season for Brad Keselowski. But he’s started off 2014 well with a third-place finish in the Daytona 500 and now, the pole for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Keselowski is the first pole winner under the new “knockout” qualifying format that’s being implemented by NASCAR this season. Naturally, the Michigan native thought highly of it in his post-qualifying comments.
“I don’t know how to say it but it feels like a lot of things are coming together for me personally over the last few months,” he said. “Whether it is personally or professionally – even the rule changes. I think qualifying has been one of those formats that I have struggled with. It just didn’t suit my style in the past. This qualifying format really does suit my style a lot better.
“It gives me a chance to learn and apply which to me was instrumental to our success today and hopefully will be in how we go forward. It is interesting how a small format change like this can favor or disfavor teams and individuals and this is one that we have been able to take like a fish to water. Hopefully we will continue to do that.”
But he too shared the concerns of other drivers such as Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano about the safety issues involved with teams doing slow laps on the track in order to cool down their cars.
NASCAR does not allow teams to use cool-down units on pit road during qualifying to keep them from popping the hood and making illegal adjustments to their cars.
“I think it is always a concern to see cars that are significantly slower than other cars on the track,” he said. “…What is difficult is if you are in NASCAR’s position and you disallow those tactics, then essentially, you will kill this format and it won’t work because the cars won’t be able to be cool enough to run a second or third time which is what makes this format relevant. It is a tough line to walk.”
Altogether, Keselowski felt like it was too soon to tell what will and will not work regarding the knock-out format.
“I think it is just way too early to tell and like anything else needs to get a couple weeks under its belt and then we can draw a better conclusion on where we are at,” he said.