A duo of Chevrolets will lead the field to the green flag Saturday night
With adverse weather hovering near the Bristol Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick stormed to the pole position for Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifications on the high-banked .533-mile track. His speed of 131.362 miles per hour set a new track standard, the 18th track record of the season.
I thought our car was a little bit better in race trim than in qualifying trim
“It feels great,” said Harvick about gaining the pole and setting a qualifying record. “(I) just have to thank everybody on our Jimmy John’s team for really everything they do every week for qualifying and race cars that they bring to the race track are just incredibly fast. They have helped improve my qualifying record a tremendous amount. Today was no different.”
Regarding Saturday’s race, he added, “Track position is definitely as important as it is anywhere with the current groove and where you are running. I felt good about our car during practice and just have to stay in there all night and do the best we can.”
Harvick drove the Jimmy John’s Chevrolet to score his 11th career pole and fourth in 2014.
Jeff Gordon qualified the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet second fastest at 131.290, missing the top spot by a mere .008 seconds.
“I thought our car was a little bit better in race trim than in qualifying trim,” Gordon said. “Very tricky conditions out there when you are running up (on) top and putting the car on the edge of the rubber and tire debris. You don’t want to jump over it. The track fooled a lot of guys but not the No. 24 team, as they did an awesome job of tuning in on it. I thought we had enough (for pole); that was a good lap and it tells you how good a lap Kevin (Harvick) had.”
The opening round of qualifying at Bristol went on with threatening skies overhead. Early in the session, Kyle Larson, Casey Mears, and Aric Almirola made contact with the wall. Larson posted the 40th fastest time while the other two failed to even complete a lap. Cole Whitt brought out the second red flag when he went spinning into the wall with just over 14 minutes left.
With just 90 seconds remaining on the clock, Kyle Busch was sitting on the bubble when he got pushed out by Ryan Newman.
Kyle Busch then fought his way back inside the top twelve, leaving Marcos Ambrose on the outside looking in. The Aussie followed up with a stellar lap that rocketed him up inside the top five and into the next round.
Simultaneously, Denny Hamlin had his ticket to the final round snatched up by Kasey Kahne. Notables with poor qualifying efforts included Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20th), Danica Patrick (24th), Jeff Burton (25th), and the aforementioned trio of Larson, Mears, and Almirola.
Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Carl Edwards made up the list of drivers who did advance.
Carl Edwards led the final round early with a lap of 14.624 seconds. Jeff Gordon lowered the mark by a hundredth before getting knocked off by Kevin Harvick with six minutes to go. Marcos Ambrose was the final driver to take to the track, but he only managed to reach 10th.
A number of drivers took a shot at Harvick's time in the closing seconds but despite their best efforts, all failed to match him on the exit of the final corner. His blistering lap of 14.607 seconds stood strong against all advesaries. Harvick has won from the pole on four occasions, with the last time being earlier this year at Darlington. Jeff Gordon will start alongside, ending his streak of poles at two.
Behind Harvick and Gordon, it was Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, and Marcos Ambrose.