DOVER, Del. — Report by Managing Editor Jacob Seelman for Race Chaser Online — Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America photo — His tagline is “Freaky Fast” and this year, it’s been with good reason.
There has been no stopping Kevin Harvick in Coors Light Pole Qualifying this season, and that roll continued on Friday afternoon at Dover International Speedway. After pacing Cup practice earlier in the day, Harvick stormed around the “Monster Mile” in 22.095 seconds (162.933 mph) to notch his series-leading seventh pole of the 2014 season and 13th of his Cup career.
“It’s been amazing year for everybody on our Budweiser Stewart-Haas Racing team. They just do a great job preparing the race cars and putting a lot of effort into qualifying and it has translated into a lot of good finishes,” Harvick said after garnering his first Dover pole. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. Obviously track position is huge here, especially at the beginning of the race. Never been in that (first) stall, so I guess it’s going to be OK on that end of pit road.”
A Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will join Harvick on the front row, as fellow Chase contender Kyle Busch put up the second-quickest lap time at 22.167 seconds (162.404 mph). Busch will look to score the win on Sunday to ensure himself a spot in the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup — the Las Vegas, Nev. driver is a two-time winner at Dover, but has never won the fall race.
Denny Hamlin, the 13th seed on the NASCAR Chase Grid headed into Sunday’s event at Dover, improved his chances of advancing in the Chase greatly by posting the third-quickest qualifying effort during the final round. Hamlin will be flanked by 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who is already locked into the Contender Round.
Jamie McMurray, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing and hoping to spoil the Chasers’ party, rounded out the top five.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, rookie sensation Kyle Larson, six-time champion and nine-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and rookie Austin Dillon completed the top ten for Sunday’s AAA 400. Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne were the final two drivers to advance to the final round of qualifying and will start 11th and 12th, respectively.
Harvick also paced the first round of qualifying with a quick lap of 22.129 seconds (162.682 mph), outrunning Vickers, Keselowski, Gordon and Johnson. Danica Patrick (13th) was the first car that failed to advance to the second and final qualifying round, missing the cut by 0.002 seconds to Dillon.
Chasers who were unable to advance to the final round of qualifying included Matt Kenseth (14th), Loudon winner Joey Logano (16th), Carl Edwards (18th), Ryan Newman (20th), Aric Almirola (21st), Kurt Busch (22nd), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (25th), Greg Biffle (27th), and A.J. Allmendinger (28th).
WIth 43 cars at the race track, all cars qualified for Sunday’s event.
The AAA 400 takes the green flag on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, with live coverage on ESPN, the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio, Channel 90.