NASCAR's qualifying canceled by heavy rain

GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer Published:

By Greg Beacham | Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Brad Keselowski will start on the pole after heavy rain forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying for Sunday's race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The track got steady rain all morning Friday and again in the early afternoon after a brief break, forcing NASCAR to scrap practice and qualifying in Las Vegas for the first time. The speedway urged fans to take cover from rain, high wind and lightning when the afternoon storm broke over the desert north of the Strip.

"I was just thinking when I walked in, with this being Vegas and all, what the odds would be of a rainout in Vegas," Keselowski said. "I bet that was pretty high."

Sunday's field will be set by points and the NASCAR rule book, giving the pole to last season's Sprint Cup series champion. The top 36 spots are set by owners' points from last year, with the rest filled out by points or qualifying attempts.

"That's a really good deal," said Keselowski, the first-time champ. "It's one of the perks, I guess, of being the champion in the first few races. This is the first time I've had a decent starting position in a rainout."

Mike Bliss will miss the race because of the cancellation of qualifying.

Keselowski will be on the front row alongside Clint Bowyer, last season's second-place finisher. Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson and teammate Kasey Kahne will be in the second row.

Although the rain also forced the cancellation of Friday's practice, no drivers seemed particularly concerned after going through Thursday's open test of the new Gen-6 car.

"We had more than enough practice this weekend," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "So I'm not too worried about what we didn't get to do today, because yesterday was way more than we needed, to be honest."

Danica Patrick hit in head by rock on dirt track

LAS VEGAS -- Danica Patrick says she's fine after getting hit in the head by a rock on a dirt track.

Patrick got smacked by a stray rock while attending a race Thursday night, leaving her with a sore head. She had a brief conversation with medical staff Friday, but felt no problems.

Patrick says the rock hit her "straight in the head," and she's glad she had a hat on or "there would have been blood."

Patrick had one of the most significant crashes of her career last Sunday in Phoenix, slamming into a wall with about 100 laps left and leaving her with a stiff neck and a headache.

Patrick became the first woman to win a pole and lead green-flag laps at the Daytona 500 last month, finishing eighth.

Penske hires Allmendinger for TWO IndyCar races

MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger will compete in two IndyCar races this season including May's Indianapolis 500 with Roger Penske's team.

Allmendinger will drive the No. 2 car, which will be sponsored by IZOD, at Indy and April 7 at Birmingham, Ala. A news conference is scheduled for Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 31-year-old Allmendinger drove the first 17 races for Penske's Cup team last season before being suspended for violating the series' substance-abuse policy. He was reinstated following after completing NASCAR's Road to Recovery program.

Allmendinger has strong ties to open-wheel racing. He won five times in 2006 in the now defunct Champ Car circuit and had 14 podium finishes in three years before moving to NASCAR.

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