Kurt Busch spoiled Kevin Harvick’s party Friday. After leading the first two rounds of knockout qualifying at Michigan International Speedway Harvick could only look out his windshield as his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate snatched the pole for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Firekeepers Casino 400.
Busch put down a lap of 203.361 miles per hour around the 2.0-mile speedway with just over three minutes to go in the final five minutes to win the 24th pole of his career, his third and Michigan and his second of 2018.
The lap for Busch was the fastest at Michigan since Jeff Gordon established the track record, 206.558 mph, in August of 2014.
It was also 15 miles and hour faster than his last pole here in 2007.
“This one is fun because I could trust the car and I knew I needed to go after it hard,” Busch said.” Watching all the Fords in practice I knew we had a good shot at it.”
All Harvick could do was watch as first Brad Keselowski then Kyle Busch put Harvick down to 4th.
“Our goal is to run the same speeds throughout each round,” Harvick said. “And if not run your fastest at the end and we ran the same speed in all three rounds. To be honest I didn’t really expect everybody to pick up two-tenths. I thought we had a little bit to just keep from trying to screw up but in the end, I needed to get a little more. It was still a good qualifying effort, so we will just go from there.”
Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano will roll of fifth Sunday. Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, who led Friday’s lone practice session, and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.
Defending race winner Kyle Larson, in fact the winner of the last three Michigan races, struggled in qualifying failing to make it to the second round; he will try and make it four consecutive MIS wins from the 26th place starting spot Sunday.
“Our car has just been pretty far off, I feel like, all day,” Larson said. “It’s really tight. I don’t feel like I can turn the wheel very far either. I don’t know why that is. But, we’ve got some smart people in our race trailer and on our race team that will get it worked out. We’ll get some laps tomorrow and hopefully be better.”
Last week’s winner and defending Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. also struggled but did manage to make it to round 2; he’ll start 17th Sunday.
“We were just – we actually got it better there the last round there,” Truex said. “Just still way too tight, so we just missed it for qualifying today. We had a short practice there this morning and the track was really loose when we started practice and we were way off there and we got it better there towards the end and now we’re way too tight, so just one of them days where we chased it – we chased the balance a lot – and definitely didn’t hit it right for qualifying.”
Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer were the final two cars to advance to the final round, they will start 11th and 12th respectively Sunday.
With 39 cars entered for 40 spots, no team was sent home.