Kevin Harvick Turns Bad Week Around With NASCAR Phoenix Pole
Kevin Harvick begins quest for 10th Phoenix win from the first starting spot in the Can-Am 500.
Nine-time ISM Raceway winner Kevin Harvick posted a 25.836-second/139.340 mile per hour lap in the final round of NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at the track near Phoenix on Friday to claim the pole for Sunday’s Can-Am 500, the penultimate race of the 2018 season. It’s Harvick’s fourth pole of the season.
“It’s been a good day for us,” Harvick said. "All we concentrated on was qualifying, and obviously, we had some good adjustments to the car right there at the end, and I was actually able to drive the car without screwing it up. It was definitely a good lap for us and came at a good time.”
Three different drivers led the three rounds of qualifying. Chase Elliott’s 25.823-second/139.411 mph lap in the second round was the fastest lap overall, though he wound up second to start alongside Harvick on the front row Sunday.
"The guys brought me a great NAPA Chevy this week, and one of these days I’ll figure out how to qualify on a non-plate track, maybe,” Elliott said. "I had a car to do it today, and I didn’t get it done. So we’ll go to work on Sunday.”
Matt Kenseth led the opening round with a 26.028-second/138.313 mph lap, but he failed to advance all the way to the third round. Instead, Kenseth claimed the 17th starting position.
Half of the eight playoff drivers advanced to the final qualifying round. Joining the front-row starters are Kyle Busch in sixth and Joey Logano in ninth. Logano already is locked into the four-driver championship battle, scheduled for Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, courtesy of a win a couple of weekends ago at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. He’s the only driver already locked in after Harvick, last week’s Texas Motor Speedway winner, had his spot taken away because of a spoiler issue discovered in a teardown inspection a few days ago.
The issue also cost Harvick the services of crew chief Rodney Childers. Veteran crew chief Tony Gibson will be atop the No. 4 pit box in Childers’ place.
“Everything went smooth,” Harvick said of the crew chief change. "I think as you guys are quickly figuring out, it’s more about people than it is about cars, so we’ve got a lot of good people and, obviously, a lot of experience with Tony, and those guys did a great job filling the roles. You can’t drive a slow car fast, and you can’t beat good people.”
All eight championship contenders, though, did manage to advance to Round 2. After Martin Truex Jr. battled issues throughout the day that resulted in only getting on track in the final minutes of Friday’s lone practice session and his car failing pre-qualifying inspection three times, the reigning Cup Series champion just barely missed advancing to the final round, winding up 13th.
Harvick’s three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and Aric Almirola qualified 14th, 16th, and 18th, respectively.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the highest-qualifying non-playoff driver, taking third to share the second row with Ryan Blaney, who already has been eliminated from championship contention.
REMAINING WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Two more Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sessions are scheduled for Saturday, one from 9:30 a.m. to 10:20 p.m. PT and another from noon to 12:50 p.m. The race is scheduled for an approximate 12:20 p.m. start Sunday.