Kevin Harvick may not be in the Championship 4 this year. Instead, he’s been busy embracing a new role: championship spoiler.
Harvick won the pole for the Ford 400 Sunday in a qualifying session where none of the Chasers placed higher than ninth. His Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet paced the field with a speed of 177.637 mph, taking the lead in the final session and resisting a late run from second-quick Brad Keselowski. It’s a chance for him to play spoiler, a role Harvick resisted as “just another weekend” while acknowledging the importance of two major storylines close to him: good friend Tony Stewart’s final race and his final start running for Chevrolet.
“I came here to try to win, same as everybody else,” Harvick said. “No participation trophies.”
Keselowski’s speed of 177.538 mph puts him on the outside of the front row. Ryan Newman, who paced practice and led the early rounds of qualifying wound up third fastest with a speed of 177.387 mph. Denny Hamlin and rookie Chase Elliott rounded out the top-5 drivers.
The Chasers wound up further down the list. Kyle Busch wound up with the best time, clocking in ninth fastest while Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards will start alongside. Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson didn’t make it that far; both men failed to make it out of Round 2. They’ll start 13th and 14th, respectively although neither driver appeared all that worried about their predicament.
“It’s interesting that everyone’s starting so close to each other,” Logano said, “And not towards the front.”
Added Johnson, who needed a last-minute run just to squeak into the top 24 in the first place: “It’s a party.”
Edwards and Busch were just as loose, joking about everything from a reporter’s outfit to their own driver suits to Edwards’ broken down motorhome, all while admitting the racing Sunday looked pretty even. The JGR drivers also disputed previous information spread by their owner, Joe Gibbs, that they’re not sharing information throughout the race weekend.
“He’s not in our meetings,” joked Busch. “Don’t listen to Joe.”
Click here for the full starting lineup for Sunday’s Ford 400.
About the author
The author of Bowles-Eye View (Mondays) and Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 30 staff members as its majority owner. Based in Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild.
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