Harvick wins 1st Darlington pole


DARLINGTON, S.C. — Kevin Harvick won his first career pole at Darlington Raceway on Friday as he looks to
chase his first Southern 500.
Harvick came out on top in the first knockout qualifying session at NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway since
the circuit made the change from single-car laps. Joey Logano, the winner Monday in Texas, was second,
followed by Aric Almirola.
Almirola’s teammate, Marcos Ambrose, was fourth, followed by Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman
and Kyle Busch.
Points leader Jeff Gordon, a seven-time Darlington winner, will start ninth, with Denny Hamlin rounding
out the top 10.
Almirola finished first in the second of three rounds of qualifying and set a track record of 184.145
mph, shattering Kurt Busch’s mark of 181.918 set last May when the Southern 500 was held on Mother’s Day
weekend. It’s the sixth time in eight races this season the qualifying record fell.
But Harvick used a higher line in the final segment to lead the field.
“It all worked out. Knockout qualifying paid off for us today because we were able to save the best for
last,” Harvick said.
Harvick, in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, hasn’t been a qualifying demon during his
successful NASCAR career, winning just six of them in his previous 473 career Sprint Cup races. He said
his triumph Friday was simple — he had the fastest car.
“We just had faster cars to drive in qualifying,” he said. His No. 4 Chevrolet team has improved in
finding qualifying speed the past few weeks. Harvick hadn’t started better than 13th in his first four
events. He’s had a fourth, a third and a first in qualifying in three of past four events.
It didn’t look like anyone would have the speed to move past Almirola in the second segment, whose fast
lap was more than 2 mph quicker than the old mark.
“That track record lap I actually felt like I was going faster in the third session than the second
session,” Almirola said. “But the record was in the second session. It was a great lap for us and I am
proud of everyone (at Richard Petty Motorsports).”
In all, 25 drivers went faster than Kurt Busch’s old record in the first round of qualifying. There were
14 who bettered Busch’s 2013 mark in the second session. The top seven qualifiers ran faster than the
old record in the final run.
Among those not advancing to the second round were six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and Matt
Kenseth. The two drivers combined for 13 victories last season, yet each is winless through the first
seven events this year.
Some who didn’t make it through to the final 12 qualifiers were Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg
Biffle and Tony Stewart.
Logano is starting in the top 10 for the seventh time in eight races. He’ll try for his second straight
Sprint Cup win after taking the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“It’s insane,” Logano said. “This is the place you go to where you have the most sensation of speed. Here
and Dover are the two places you feel like you’re really hauling the mail.”

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