BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has become the best qualifier in NASCAR’s top series, at least for this season.
The veteran driver won the pole position for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night. It’s his series-high fifth top starting spot of the season, and just the 11th in 490 starts in his career.
“Faster cars,” Harvick said with a wide grin. “That’s it.’”
Harvick, in his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, set a track record with a lap at 131.362 mph that knocked Jeff Gordon from the top spot. Gordon, the series points leader, will start second at 131.290.
“Any time you beat the 24 right now, things are going ok,” Harvick said.
Gordon was equally pleased.
“I thought I had a really good laps that first run out,” he said. “I came on the radio and I said, ‘That is all I got.’ When you go do that and the car is well balanced and you get a good lap, you know that it’s up to somebody else to just take a little more risk and maybe get it, and Kevin did that.”
Carl Edwards, who won here in the spring, will start third, with Kyle Busch fourth. Busch has won five times in his career on the 0.533-mile oval, but said he’s concerned the lone groove around the top of the track could be problematic.
“I think the race is going to be frustrating — not a lot of passing,” he said. “I think a lot of guys are going to be up around the top. Everybody is going to be up around the top.”
Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson are in the third row, with Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle in the fourth.
Biffle is the only one of the top eight qualifiers who has not sealed a spot in the championship. He will start the race 16th in points, but with three drivers trailing him by 24 points or fewer as they try to climb into the top 16.
“We’ll keep working on it,” he said. “Bristol is hard to judge, but our car is driving good and I can run pretty consistent laps, so I feel like we’ve got a solid top 10 car.”