FORT WORTH, Texas – Kevin Harvick has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
In 25 starts at the 1.5-mile track, the reigning series champion has scored but five top-five finishes.
But the smart money says Harvick is going to be a player in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET on NBC), and the performance of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Friday’s knockout qualifying session underscores that assertion.
True, Harvick was 15th fastest in the first round of time trials, posting a lap at 196.178 mph, more than two miles an hour slower than the 198.282 mph recorded by session leader Brad Keselowski.
In the second round, Harvick ran 196.542 mph, good enough for third fastest as other drivers slowed down. In the final round, Harvick posted the second fastest speed at 195.993 mph, securing the outside-front-row starting position next to Coors Light Pole Award winner Brad Keselowski.
The bottom line was that Harvick maintained his speed as others fell off the pace, suggesting the defending series champ will be a factor during Sunday’s second of three races in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“The team did a great job,” Harvick said after qualifying. “Pretty much ran the same speed in all three rounds there. Didn’t quite have the raw speed in the first round, but this is a racetrack where you want the car to keep going as long as you can.
“I felt like we had a good start to our race trim practice (on Friday) and going to have a good spot to start on Sunday.”
That should be cause for concern for the other seven drivers still eligible for the series championship. Next on the schedule after Texas is Phoenix, where Harvick has seven victories, including the last four in a row and five of the last six.
After that, it’s the Nov. 22 Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Harvick won last year to clinch his first championship.