KANSAS CITY, Kan.— When you think of potential pole winners for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Kevin Harvick is nowhere near the top of the list.
But Harvick scratched a seven-year itch during Friday’s time trials at Kansas Speedway.
Covering the 1.5-mile distance in 28.796 seconds (187.526 mph), Harvick won the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the fourth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
In claiming his first Coors Light pole award after a dry spell of 254 races dating to September 2006 at New Hampshire, Harvick edged Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (187.480 mph) by .007 seconds. Harvick earned the top starting spot for a Cup race for the sixth time in 460 tries.
The pole is a good jump start for Harvick in his attempt to reel in Chase leader Matt Kenseth. Harvick is tied for fourth in the standings with Jeff Gordon, 39 points behind Kenseth, 31 behind Jimmie Johnson in third and 27 behind Kyle Busch in third.
Johnson qualified third at 187.162 mph, with Brad Keselowski (186.233 mph), Joey Logano (186.168 mph) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (186.072 mph) lining up in positions four through six. Kenseth qualified seventh at 185.893 mph, with Busch a disappointing 18th at 184.603 mph.
With Harvick in a lame-duck season, the result of an announced moved to Stewart-Haas Racing next year, the driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet is used to being discounted when it comes to his championship prospects.
“To be honest with you, I walked into media day (in February at Daytona), and there were two people standing in line to conduct interviews, so from day one of this year, everybody’s kind of written us off,” Harvick said.
“We’re three races into the Chase, and it is what it is. We’ve done our thing and put ourselves in position to just go out and race and enjoy it.”
Winning the pole gives Harvick the luxury of picking pit stall No. 1, closest to the exit from pit road. That can be a huge factor late in the race.
“The first pit stall is definitely important,” Harvick said. “It’s obviously not going to hurt anything to be down on that end of pit road. When it comes down to the end of the race and everybody’s got the two-tire strategy, no-tire strategy, four tires—whatever the strategy may be—you should be able to get off pit road pretty well.”
Stenhouse, who won his first career pole in August at Atlanta, was disappointed to miss getting a second one by such a slim margin. To Stenhouse, waiting seven years between poles, as Harvick did, is not an option.
“Hopefully, we don’t go that long without a pole,” Stenhouse said. “I really wish that he (Harvick) didn’t have a pole, so that I could have another one. I’m getting kind of greedy.”
In addition to Harvick, Johnson, Logano, Earnhardt, Kenseth and Kyle Busch, other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Carl Edwards, ninth; Jeff Gordon, 14th; Kasey Kahne, 15th; Ryan Newman, 17th; Kurt Busch, 19th; Clint Bowyer, 22nd; and Greg Biffle, 26th.
Note: The pole was the first for Richard Childress Racing since Clint Bowyer was the fastest qualifier for the Chase race at New Hampshire in September 2007.