Brad Keselowski isn’t rolling over for Jimmie Johnson, not with two races to go in their championship battle and not at Phoenix International Raceway.
Keselowski outqualified Johnson by 10 positions Friday in Avondale, Ariz., at one of the five-time NASCAR champion’s best race tracks.
It was an unusual twist for the top two contenders, as Johnson is typically the better qualifier and Keselowski has struggled in that area through the first eight races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
And there should be no question which driver would be in control at Phoenix, where Johnson is a four-time winner and has a 5.3 average finish and Keselowski has only one career top-five.
But when the qualifying session was over, Keselowski had locked down the 14th starting spot for Sunday’s race, while Johnson was in 24th. It’s the lowest qualifying position for Johnson in a Chase race since the 2010 opener at New Hampshire, and his worst this season since the August Bristol race.
“Wasn’t so good, but we’ve been fighting a little bit in qualifying trim,” Johnson said. “But, we’ve got a great baseline race setup to go off.”
Tony Stewart has reportedly signed Kevin Harvick to drive for his team beginning in 2014.
Stewart would not comment on the report by ESPN.com, which said Harvick has signed a multiyear agreement to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing when his contract expires after next season. Asked about the report at Phoenix International Raceway, Stewart said he doesn’t discuss business until he’s got something official to announce.
SCOTT WINS TRUCKS
Brian Scott used a late pass on a restart with two laps left, after points leader James Buescher hit the wall, to win a wreck-filled race at Phoenix that tightened up the season championship.
Buescher came into the race with a 15-point lead and appeared to be in position to pad it after Ty Dillon suffered damage from a wreck with about 40 laps left. Instead, Buescher finished 17th, leaving him 11 points ahead of Timothy Peters, who avoided the wrecks to finish fourth, and 12 ahead of Dillon. Joey Coulter, who finished third, is 29 points back.