After having the fastest time in opening practice Thursday afternoon, Kevin Harvick laid down a lap in the final round of qualifying at 196.029 mph to win his first Coors Light Pole Award of 2016.
Harvick was among the top two in each of the three rounds of qualifying. He led off the opening session quickest and was second in the second round. Being one of the first cars out on track in the final round paid dividends for the 2014 Bank of America 500 winner.
“I feel like I got to the green a little bit better,” Harvick said. “Our car was too loose the run before and I got to the green and through 1 and 2 [Turns] better. I felt like I gave up a little in 3 and 4 [Turns] coming to the checkered. It’s been a fun car to drive today, hopefully we can get it dialed in for race trim.”
In five races at Charlotte since joining Stewart-Haas Racing at the beginning of 2014, Harvick has a victory and three second-place finishes to his credit.
Alex Bowman posted the quickest time in the second round of qualifying, but in the final round ended up .004 seconds off the pole winning time. This is the best starting position of his career and the best qualifying effort for the No. 88 team in 2016.
“We didn’t put the greatest lap together in the final round,” Bowman said. “We got a little free in and didn’t get it turning on the bottom like I needed to. I wasn’t able to commit to the throttle. 3 and 4 [Turns] was really good. I hate that we didn’t get the pole, we were so close.”
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in third at 195.759 mph. The No. 24 team had to go through the inspection line multiple times to make it to the grid for the opening round.
Kyle Busch (195.228 mph) will start fourth on Saturday, while Tony Stewart (195.228) will round out the top five in his final start at Charlotte. The two teams tied, but Busch’s No. 18 is higher in the championship standings, which benefits the Joe Gibbs Racing team.
A.J. Allmendinger will start sixth, the best qualifying effort on an oval for the No. 47 team since Martinsville earlier this season. Chase drivers Martin Truex, Jr. Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and defending winner Joey Logano round out the top 10.
It took Logano and the No. 22 team two attempts to make it out of the opening round. During the first attempt, he complained of being too tight and was not able to get the car turned through the center of the corners.
All other Chase drivers will start outside the top 10, beginning with Jimmie Johnson in 11th. Matt Kenseth is the next Chase driver in 17th, with Austin Dillon (19th), Brad Keselowski (20th) and Kurt Busch (23rd) completing the playoff grid.
The Cup Series will have one practice on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET to make final adjustments before the second round of the Chase kicks off Saturday evening. In the Coca-Cola 600 earlier this season Truex led for 592 miles, the most in NASCAR history.
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