KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick feels his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet can beat every other car on the track, and on Friday he did. For the eighth time this season.
After destroying his own track record in the second round of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying, Harvick sped around 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in 27.235 seconds (197.621 mph) in the final session to win the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN) and affirm his status as the speed car in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Harvick’s third straight at Kansas, his eighth of the season and the 14th of his career. Harvick’s money lap was only slightly slower than the 197.773 mph he ran in posting the top speed in the second round, a lap that blew away the previous track record of 194.658 mph he set on May 9.
Non-Chaser Brian Vickers qualified second at 196.307 mph for the first race in the Contender Round of the Chase. Aric Almirola (196.150 mph), eliminated from the Chase last week at Dover, claimed the third starting spot.
Chase drivers occupied the next five spots on the grid: Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Though Harvick now has eight poles, he has but two victories this year, and he hasn’t won a Sprint Cup race since April at Darlington.
“For whatever reason this (track) fits everything I have going on with my driving style,” Harvick said. “In the end, it’s about having fast cars. Obviously, last year we had a fast car, and this year we’ve had a fast car as well. I have to thank everyone on the Budweiser team for staying focused, continuing to build faster race cars and doing everything we need to do — that we can control.
“The cars are fast, we’re qualifying well. The pit stops are good. The cars are reliable. Everything is going good. We just need the good luck to go with it. It’s like I keep telling these guys, everything will come full circle, and hopefully it does it at the right time this year. … With a little bit of good luck, I just feel we can beat every car on the race track on any given week at any style race track, and that’s a really positive, good feeling to have.”
Gordon, last week’s winner at Dover, felt he got all he could out of his lap (196.050 mph) but was no match for Harvick.
“I’m happy with where we ended up,” Gordon said. “I feel like that’s about where we were. Kevin was in another league.”
In sharp contrast to Harvick’s flawless qualifying performance, six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson had more than his share of issues. Trying to improve on a lackluster first lap, Johnson spun during his second attempt in the first round and will start 32nd on Sunday.
Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kasey Kahne, 10th; Carl Edwards, 12th; Ryan Newman, 17th; Denny Hamlin, 25th; and Matt Kenseth, 27th.
The Cup cars are back on track Saturday with a pair of practices that run from 11-11:50 a.m. ET (FS1) and 2-2:50 p.m. ET (FS2).