By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
BROOKLYN, Mich. – After two frustrating weeks of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying, Joey Logano learned the drill.
Posting the fastest speeds in both the second and final rounds of Friday’s knockout time trials at Michigan International Speedway, Logano won the pole for Sunday’s FireKeepers 400 (1 p.m. ET on FS1) at the two-mile track.
In the previous two weekends, at Charlotte and Pocono, Logano led the first two rounds of qualifying but failed to close the deal in the decisive third round. On Friday, his No. 22 Team Penske Ford was on top when it counted, giving Logano his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at Michigan and the 16th of his career.
“It’s about time,” said Logano, who toured the speedway in 36.080 seconds (199.557 mph) in the final round to beat second-place qualifier Martin Truex Jr. (199.016 mph) by .098 seconds. “The last couple ones have stung a lot. We won the first two rounds and came in second in the last one.
“So we figured it out. We won the same amount of rounds, but the right one, the one that counts.”
Tony Stewart (198.950 mph) took the third starting spot, his best effort of the season after returning from injury. Denny Hamlin (198.774 mph), who edged Logano for the fastest lap in the first round, qualified fourth, followed by Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Blaney (198.588 mph).
With a new lower-downforce aerodynamic package in use for the Sprint Cup cars this weekend, NASCAR delayed the start of qualifying for 15 minutes because roughly two-thirds of the field had difficulty getting through inspection.
Truex’s No. 78 Toyota was the last to clear inspection, but the recent Coca-Cola 600 winner didn’t let that snafu affect his performance.
“We had to work hard on it today and had trouble getting through tech,” Truex said. “Our first run was pretty bad, our second run was better, and our third run was pretty good… We came out with a good result, so it was good.
“We just keep digging and never give up—front-row starting spot is pretty decent.”
Kevin Harvick was the victim of two untimely cautions in the 20-minute first round, the first for debris and the second for David Ragan’s wreck in Turn 3. Both yellows interrupted hot laps for the 2014 series champion, who failed to advance to the second round and will start Sunday‘s race in 29th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., last week’s Pocono runner-up, likewise failed to make the second round and will start 27th.
Stewart had the strongest Chevrolet in the field and the only one in the top five.
“I’m glad that was the last time I had to do that today,” Stewart said. “It felt really good. We were really loose in practice, and (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) did a great job in the break thereof making some big changes to get us caught up.
“It got my confidence back there and made me feel like I finally had the right rear (tire) in the track there. Now we can hustle a little bit.”