Kevin Harvick may not have won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race since April but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t started the weekend with a good shot at doing so. Harvick broke another track record Friday in route to his eighth pole of the season and will lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (ESPN 2:00 p.m.). Harvick led the final round of three and put down a lap of 197.621 following up on his record lap of 197.773 in the second round to secure the pole.
“We have had some bad luck, but these guys continue to focus on the thing that they need to focus on and that is bringing fast cars.” Harvick said. “They are staying focused one practice at a time, one lap at a time and they are grinding away through the tests and the things that you have to do this time of year. That bad luck can’t stay with us forever. “
It was his fourth pole in the last seven races and his third in a row at the 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway. Brian Vickers will start second, Aric Almirola third, with Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon rounding out the top five.
“I don’t want to have to do that again the rest of the day,” Tony Stewart who qualified 9th with a lap of 195.518 said. “Kevin’s (Harvick) lap at 197 mph average on a 1.5-mile that is pretty fast for a stock car. It’s pretty impressive. I remember when I started in these things 16 years ago we didn’t even think about running 197 for an average. They barely ran 197 at the top end. It’s pretty impressive. “
The other big story in Friday’s three rounds of qualifying were the struggles for several drivers in the Chase including six-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson spun on his second lap in the first round and missed the cut off; he will start 32nd,. That matches his worst starting spot of the season , that coming at the season opening Daytona 500. In February, he rallied to finish fifth. Johnson started 30th at Michigan in August but came back to finish ninth. Matt Kenseth also had a poor qualifying effort and will start 27th Sunday. Denny Hamlin also struggled and will start 25th.
“We’re going to have to come from the tail end of the pack,” Hamlin said. “But it’s a track position race so maybe we’ll play the strategy right and sneak a good finish out of here.”
Brad Keselowski led the opening round. He will start sixth Sunday.
“Our first outing I thought we were going to get the pole we just didn’t pick up any speed from there,” Keselowski said. “It is still a lot better than what we did in practice and we will start sixth. You can certainly win from there. We will work on it more tomorrow to pick up some more speed.”
Harvick is the defending winner of this race. He was second here in the spring behind Gordon and now hopes the good starting spot will help score him his first win since April, despite leading the most laps and coming up short of victory lane on several occasions, including here in the spring.
“ You just never know what the day is going to deal you.” Harvick said. “You know starting in the first pit stall that is going to be better than not starting in the first pit stall. You know starting up front is going to be better than starting in the middle of the pack. Like I say I’m confident that I can win anywhere. I feel good about the things that we did here last time. This is the same car, same stuff underneath it and still running good. I like it.”
As for the other Chase contenders, Kyle Busch starts seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr., eighth, Kasey Kahne 10th, Carl Edwards, 12th and Ryan Newman 17th. The full qualifying results can be found here. The lineup for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series Hollywood 400 at Kansas Speedway, can be found here.