Kevin Harvick has led the field to the green four times this season. Thursday night however, he won it.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who posted a photo of a charging bull on social media when the Chase began, put down a lap with just under three minutes left in the final five minutes of knockout qualifying to win the pole for Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Bank of America 500.
The pole winning speed of 196.029 miles per hour gave Harvick his first career Charlotte pole, his first pole win of the season and his first pole win since Chicagoland last fall. It also backed up his lap in practice earlier in the day that led also the field.
“I just got to the green a little bit better,” Harvick said. “The car was too loose the time before. And I got to the green better. It was good in (Turns) 1 and 2; but I felt like I gave up a little something in (Turns) 3 and 4 coming to the checkered. This has just been a fun car to drive today. Hopefully we can get it dialed in race trim.”
Harvick has started up front four times this season due to qualifying rainouts; Thursday’s pole was his first on speed. Harvick’s lap came shortly after Alex Bowman, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. grabbed the top spot with a lap of 196.000. Bowman will start second Saturday night. Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart round out the top five starters. Stewart and Bowman were among four drivers who were able to keep four of the Chase drivers outside the top 12.
“I’m really thankful to be here,” Bowman said. “I hate that we didn’t get the pole. We were so close. It’s definitely my best starting spot by a bunch, but you’d always like that pole.”
Those four drivers, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, and Kurt Busch failed to advance out of the second round. Kenseth was lucky to even make it to the second round. He was among at least eight drivers who were still going through NASCAR inspection when the first round of 20 minutes began. He went on-track with under seven minutes to go and put down a lap good enough to transfer, but only to the second round. Kenseth will start 17th, Dillon 19th, Keselowski 20th, and Kurt Busch 23rd.
“We just lacked a little bit of speed in qualifying trim, “ Keselowski said .”But the race trim stuff we did today I felt we were really, really fast, so that was encouraging. You want to qualify and race good, but it’s more important to race good, and I think we’ve got a great Ford Fusion to do exactly that.”
AJ Allmendinger will start sixth, Martin Truex Jr. seventh, Carl Edwards eighth, Denny Hamlin ninth and Joey Logano 10th. Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 12 as the final drivers to advance through all three rounds. The full qualifying results can be found here, the full lineup here.
With just 40 entries no driver was sent home. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Bank of America 500 will be run on Saturday. Live coverage will be on NBC starting at 6:30 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 7:00 p.m. ET.
My mood for the next 11 weeks. pic.twitter.com/ewssWFvL7G
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) September 6, 2016