By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) DARLINGTON, S.C.—Aric Almirola has the record, but Kevin Harvick has the starting spot that counts most after Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying session at Darlington Raceway.
With a lap at 183.479 mph in the five-minute third round of time trials, Harvick won the Coors Light pole for Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at the egg-shaped 1.366-mile speedway.
The pole was Harvick’s first of the season, his first at Darlington and the seventh of his career.
Joey Logano earned the second spot with a lap of 183.049 mph and will start from the front row for the third time in eight Sprint Cup races this season. Almirola qualified third at 182.946 mph after setting a track record in the second of the three rounds.
Marcus Ambrose (182.485 mph) will start fourth Saturday night, followed by Brad Keselowski (182.059 mph) and Jamie McMurray (182.019 mph). Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, series points leader Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. will start from positions seven through 12 on the grid.
Crew chief, Rodney Childers, himself a former driver, advised Harvick to change his racing line after the first round of time trials.
“I was on the bottom all day in practice, and Rodney felt like that, in order to get the pole, we were going to need to run the top after we ran our first run,” Harvick said. “That’s the driver in him. That’s why he’s good to have sitting there watching, because he knows what’s going on.
“He can relay–and also having (spotter) Tim Fedewa up on top—-as former drivers, knowing what’s going on, they can relay what you need to do. We moved up and picked up in the second (round). I felt like I didn’t roll through there fast enough. In the last one, I felt like I rolled through there pretty good.”
In the first round, which pared the number of drivers eligible for the pole from 44 to 24, Menard posted a best lap at 183.946 mph, breaking Kurt Busch’s previous track record of 181.918 mph, set May 10, 2013.
In round No. 2, Almirola one-upped Menard with a record lap at 184.145 mph on scuffed tires, despite having an electrical short in his No. 43 Ford that forced his team to push-start the car before it rolled onto the track.
“After that first session, when I tried to fire the car up, when I would go to turn the starter on and it would try to engage with the flywheel, the electrical system in the whole car would shut itself down,” Almirola said.
“We obviously had a short in our starter or something, and every time we would flick the starter switch on, it would shut the electrical system down, so we had to push-start it the last two sessions. It made it interesting trying to blend on the race track.”
In the second session, though, Almirola blended well enough to set the record.
Notes: Logano is the only driver to make the final round of all seven knockout qualifying sessions held so far. … David Reutimann failed to make the 43-car field. … Coming off a 43rd-place finish last Sunday at Texas—the result of an early accident—Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 15th. … Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson will take the green flag in 26th place after failing to advance to the second round of knockout qualifying.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Bojangles’ Southern 500
1. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 183.479 mph.
2. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 183.049 mph.
3. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 182.946 mph.
4. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 182.485 mph.
5. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 182.059 mph.
6. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 182.019 mph.
7. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 181.985 mph.
8. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 181.763 mph.
9. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 181.756 mph.
10. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 181.548 mph.
11. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 181.481 mph.
12. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 181.200 mph.
13. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 182.181 mph.
14. (55) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 181.985 mph.
15. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 181.689 mph.
16. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 181.247 mph.
17. (42) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 181.194 mph.
18. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 181.127 mph.
19. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 180.947 mph.
20. (3) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 180.914 mph.
21. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 180.901 mph.
22. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 180.787 mph.
23. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 180.185 mph.
24. (51) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 178.958 mph.
25. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 182.059 mph.
26. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 181.911 mph.
27. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 181.548 mph.
28. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 181.394 mph.
29. (98) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 180.549 mph.
30. (7) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 180.330 mph.
31. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 180.310 mph.
32. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 180.204 mph.
33. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 180.158 mph.
34. (23) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 179.993 mph.
35. (40) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 179.717 mph.
36. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford, 179.606 mph.
37. (33) David Stremme, Chevrolet, Owner Points
38. (30) Parker Kligerman #, Toyota, Owner Points
39. (83) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, Owner Points
40. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Owner Points
41. (32) Travis Kvapil, Ford, Owner Points
42. (26) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, Owner Points
43. (66) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, Owner Points
1 driver failed to qualify.
44. (35) David Reutimann, Ford, 178.491 mph.