The good news continued for Ford Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick knocked Ryan Newman off the pole putting down the fastest lap of the day halfway through the final five minutes of qualifying. Harvick’s lap of 29.118 seconds, 190.398 miles per hour secured him his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole at Atlanta, the eighteenth of his career and his first in a Ford.
The pole comes a week after his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch won the season opening Daytona 500 in the team’s first race with Ford. It came in the same car (albeit a Chevy), he won two poles with last season.
“We have had two different styles of body on this chassis so I think that says a lot about our team,” Harvick said. “We didn’t spend very much time at all on qualifying today. We really concentrated on trying to get our race stuff right. I think as we had a couple hours to work on it there we were able to dial the setup in and made it better in every round.
“I was able to see the last round going into turn one,” he added. “The first two rounds that sun was so bright. I am really excited to get our first pole with Ford. Everybody has done a great job. We have spent a lot of time getting the cars transformed into where they are today. To be at the race track and already have a win for the 41 and a pole for us and everybody running good says a lot about the effort that has gone into this transition.”
Newman had led the lone practice session earlier in the day, the first round of qualifying Friday night, and held the provisional pole for only a few seconds as Harvick was close behind.
“We were so close,” Newman said. I really wanted to beat my old buddy, Buddy Baker’s record there. Been tied with him for a while so that was kind of rough. But I’m just proud of the guys and proud of the effort. It is the litmus test for us for a lot of the rest of the season. It was a good start for sure.”
Kyle Busch ran third and had also led the second round. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.
“Not what we wanted, but close enough,” Busch said. “Just kept getting tighter as the rounds kept going, so just didn’t have enough adjustment in the car for that, but guys did a great job giving me a fast car.”
With a new tougher qualifying procedure, there was concern that many cars would not make the grid in time to take laps. In the end, only five failed to make the first round of three rounds of qualifying; Michael McDowell, Jeffrey Earnhardt (due to an engine issue), Cole Whitt, Cody Ware, and Derrick Cope.
Joey Logano will start sixth Sunday, followed by Jamie McMurray. Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin completed the top 10. Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr., were the final two cars to make the final round and will start eleventh and twelfth respectively.
With 39 entries for 40 spots, no car was sent home. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday with live coverage on Fox.