Kevin Harvick has taken pole position for Sunday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The driver of the #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Fusion took his fourth pole position of the season with a time just over a tenth of a second faster than second-placed championship-leader, Martin Truex Jr.
Harvick’s pace in the #4 car was consistent throughout the three rounds of qualifying as he swept every round en-route to pole position. This year will be the third year in the last four that he has started from that position too. In 2014 he took pole position on merit and went on to win the race. Last year he started from the front after qualifying was rained out and went on to finish second. This year, he’ll be hoping to make amends for losing the win a year ago by taking his second win of 2017.
“I think, obviously, we’ve had a big gap of learning since we switched to Ford,” said Harvick post-qualifying: “A lot of things have been different. We’ve had to do a lot of things different, and the work load’s been pretty heavy.
“I’m really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for everything that they’ve done. We just keep getting better and better. Hopefully, we can keep improving, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come on Sunday night.”
Harvick will share the front row of the field tomorrow night with the #78 Furniture Row Racing car of Martin Truex Jr. Martin will start on the front-row for the eighth time this year and will be hoping to take his fifth win of the season tomorrow. It looks as though it will be a hotly contested race between Truex and Harvick; with the pair having both won at Darlington in the last few years.
Row two is an ‘all-Kyle affair’, with Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson starting third and fourth place respectively. The pair have been fast in the run up to the race, having both topped a practice session each on Friday, but they couldn’t find the small amount more pace needed to get to the front row. Rounding out the top five will be Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing stable-mate; Jamie McMurray.
Team Penske‘s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano qualified sixth and eighth respectively; with Kurt Busch in the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford splitting up the team-mates in seventh. This is an important race for Logano; who desperately needs a win to grant himself a spot in the championship playoffs that begin in just two weeks time.
Another driver fighting hard for a spot in the top sixteen is Erik Jones, who qualified his #77 Furniture Row Camry in tenth place; just behind the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing car of Denny Hamlin in ninth. Matt Kenseth, who Jones will replace in 2018, qualified just behind the rookie in eleventh; with Ryan Blaney completing the top twelve that made it through to the final session of qualifying in the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who both have wins to their name in 2017, just missed out on making it through to the top twelve shootout. They will start from thirteenth and fourteenth.
Further back, it was a disappointing day for Hendrick Motorsports; with all four drivers unable to make it to the final round. Jimmie Johnson was the highest placed HMS driver in eighteenth, with Chase Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne in positions twenty, twenty-two and twenty-three. All four drivers will have some work to do tomorrow night if they want to leave Darlington with a good finish; especially Elliott, who is still trying to find a way into the playoffs.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Southern 500 – Qualifying Top 12
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