Kevin Harvick turned a lap of 29.118 seconds/190.398 mph in the third and final round of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday to claim the pole starting spot for Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500.
“I just messed the first round up really bad, trying to do something that I wasn’t doing in practice,” Harvick said. “Luckily we were fast enough to be able to get through the first round into the second round. The second round, we got into a little better rhythm where I wanted to run on the race track.”
The Atlanta pole is Harvick’s sixth pole of the season and his second-straight.
Brad Keselowski’s lap time in the final round was 29.170 seconds (190.058 mph) — good enough to claim the second starting spot alongside Harvick on the front row. Harvick and Keselowski were the only two drivers to post speeds in excess of 190 mph in the third round.
“It’s, by far, the best qualifying effort I’ve ever had here,” Keselowski said. “That’s a testament to the team and the work they’ve don and trying to be better. We’re having a phenomenal season, but I just wish it would have been one more spot instead of seccond to first-place, but that’s the way it goes and, hopefully, we can find that one more spot here Sunday night.”
The fastest laps speeds came in the first round, with Aric Almirola and Matt Kenseth both posting speeds over 191 mph. Almirola was fastest in the round with a 28.984-second/191.278 mph lap. The first round got off to a slow start, as drivers waited out the sun, with Kasey Kahne and Keselowski two of only a few drivers to post laps in the first five minutes of round one. Keselowski’s lap of record, though, came when he made another run late in the round.
Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick were the fast two in the second round. Kenseth, Harvick and Keselowski were the only three drivers to top 190 mph in round two.
Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman were among the 12 drivers to advance to round three, and they posted fast enough lap times in the final round to claim second row startins spots.
Also advancing to the third round and qualifying fifth through 12th were Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Almirola, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kahne, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.
Forty-four drivers made qualifying attempts, leaving only one — Michael McDowell — without a spot on Sunday’s starting grid.