HOMESTEAD, Fla. – For the fourth straight week, a non-championship contender ran the table in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying, as Kevin Harvick stormed to the top of the speed charts Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Eliminated a week ago at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, Harvick stayed consistent in all three rounds of qualifying, posting a time of 30.399 seconds (177.637 mph) in the third and final knockout session to grab his 17th career Coors Light Pole Award and second of the season.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM) will mark the first time in his career that Harvick has lead the field to green at the 1.5-mile South Florida oval.
“That’s awesome,” Harvick smiled. “I didn’t know if we had a chance at the pole with as fast as the 24 (of Chase Elliott) had been running, but I knew every round that if we could just run the same speed … that that’s half the battle. You never know how much this track is going to slow down for everyone else, and it doesn’t take much to make a mistake here.”
“I’m really proud of the character and the effort that this whole Stewart-Haas Racing team has shown all year. This just goes to show where the focus of the team is and what they do. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, they want to come to the race track, perform well and bring good race cars (so we can do that). Thanks to the whole team … and to Tony Stewart, for one last race. It’s going to be weird not seeing him on the race track next year.”
Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will start second (30.416/177.538), followed by Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Elliott, who topped the first two knockout rounds but fell short in the run for the pole.
Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Ryan Blaney filled positions six through eight, respectively.
Kyle Busch was the highest qualifier among the Championship 4, qualifying ninth and slotting in just ahead of his teammate Carl Edwards, who was 10th.
Busch is looking to defend his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship on Sunday.
“We were really free … we freed up the most of our teammates, which makes sense,” Busch said after his final run. “We needed to do that. Ultimately, we didn’t qualify where we would have liked to … that’s not as good as I was expecting or hoping for, but all things considered, you have to look at the bigger picture. We’re all ninth to 14th, so there’s a blanket there, pretty much. We’re looking at Sunday now.”
Edwards will look to avenge his bitter loss of the 2011 Cup championship on a tiebreaker during Sunday’s finale.
“I screwed that up a little bit,” Edwards admitted after joking that fellow title contenders Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson “knew their place” in qualifying behind him for Sunday’s race.
“Our car is really fast. It’s so line-sensitive out there and I was probably a little too aggressive. I think I got on the splitter a little bit. I don’t know. It’s a starting spot. In a way, it’s good that we’re all back here, but none of us will stay back there for very long. All of us have pretty good race cars.”
Tony Stewart qualified 11th for his final Sprint Cup race, followed by A.J. Allmendinger.
Continued on the next page…