KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has a second straight shot at winning from the pole at Kansas Speedway.
Harvick was back on top at the 1.5-mile track, posting a track record to help propel him to his second pole of the season. Harvick posted his record 194.658 mph lap Friday in the second round of NASCAR’s knockout qualifying format. His No. 4 Chevrolet hit 194.252 in the third round to give him two straight poles at Kansas, after he won from the top spot at October’s race.
“It was ‘Freaky Fast’ today, so just have to put it all together tomorrow night when it counts,” Harvick said.
Harvick has two wins this season and won from the pole at Darlington. He will lead the field to green Saturday under the lights for the first time in a Sprint Cup race at Kansas. Joey Logano joined Harvick on the front row.
Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.
His qualifying spins over, Keselowski worked hard defending himself from drivers — like former champion Jimmie Johnson — who said he didn’t need to race so hard when he was out of contention Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.
Keselowski fell six laps off the pace while his car was repaired from an earlier accident. When he returned to the track, he decided to race hard with the leaders in an attempt to slowly get his laps back and maybe put himself back in position to win.
Keselowski eventually spun in the middle of the pack to trigger a 14-car accident that wrecked former champions Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Johnson.
“You have to think being six laps down you are not going to get back on the lead lap,” Johnson said Friday. “There is an opinion, if you are on the race track you deserve a right to go race regardless how many laps down you are. I’m sure that is probably a smaller percentage of people have that opinion. It’s very easy when you are caught up in that wreck is to go, ‘Why were you racing? You are six laps down.’ It just depends on where you are.”
Keselowski brushed off the barbs from his rivals.
“That’s his right,” Keselowski said. “We all hold the steering wheel. There’s 43 of us out there and we all hold it a little bit differently and make different decisions. It would be quite lame to watch if we all did the same thing and had the same ideas and personnas.
“I’d say in most cases, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But in that case, I felt like it was the proper thing to do with having the potential to race the 1 car (Jamie McMurray) and get back in sequence. If we got back in sequence, we had enough speed in our car, with yellows, to have a shot at winning the race. I wasn’t ready to give up.”
Kurt Busch was sixth, followed by Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart. Danica Patrick qualified ninth for her second straight top-10 start and Greg Biffle was 10th.
Harvick said a little 15-minute pep talk with Patrick may have spurred her to another solid qualifying run. She set a track record on her first lap, though it was topped multiple times during the three rounds.
“She just basically needed to quit thinking about it and smash the gas,” he said. “That’s what she said. She’s done a great job in trying to take in all the information.”
Harvick, who jumped from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas Racing, pulled away from Kurt Busch and Gordon on a late restart to win a wreck-filled race in October at Kansas.
“I don’t think it’s going to be like the way it was when they dropped the green flag last fall here,” he said.
Harvick won his eighth pole in 477 career starts.
“It makes life a lot easier when you can have pit stall one,” he said. “Hopefully we can have a good night tomorrow night, but the weekend has gone good we had a great test here a few weeks ago and everything has carried right over.”
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