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Rain gives rookie Larson top spot at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Larson still wants to earn a pole position on his own, but he's not complaining about being handed his first one.

The rookie will start in the top spot Saturday night in the NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway after a thunderstorm washed out qualifying.

"I'm still happy," he said Friday. "But yeah it would be nice to get a legit pole. I don't know if we would have gotten it had it not rained."

Actually, he probably wouldn't have.

The field was set based on the fastest laps run in the first practice, and Larson had his best run his the third of his 70 laps around the 0.75-mile oval. His top lap of 126.880 mph easily beat runner-up Brad Keselowski, whose best came at 126.192 mph, and No. 3 starter Clint Bowyer (125.900 mph).

The top starting spot comes in just the 13th Sprint Cup Series race for Larson, including eight this season.

When the team worked on qualifying in the final practice session, "We were seven-tenths slower than our lap that we laid down in first practice and almost two-and-a-half tenths slower than the fastest guy in second practice. I doubt we would have been on the pole, but I will take it how we get it."

Unlike Larson, Keselowski's starting spot is not unusual. The race will mark the seventh time in nine races he has started in the top five.

"We would still like to qualify and have a shot at the pole but we foresaw this coming and put a little extra emphasis in the practice sessions to get a good run out of it and a good spot, and I am glad to see that kind of panned out for us," Keselowski said, referring to forecasts for rain during the day.

Bowyer and Kasey Kahne complete the second row, and the top 10 also will include defending race winner Kevin Harvick in fifth, followed by Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Truex, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon, the points leader through eight races, will start 25th.

"I think it's going to be another good race," Bowyer said, adding that five or six perennially strong teams look strong again.

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