Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday became the fastest 1.5-mile track for pole qualifying in Sprint Cup history, and Kevin Harvick was the man who did it.
But Harvick will not start on the pole in Sunday’s Duck Commander 500. Instead, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and boss, Tony Stewart, will take the green flag first.
Harvick set his mark of 198.282 mph in the first round of qualifying, but was unable to come close to posting a comparable speed in the second (24 cars) or final 12-round session.
Still, Harvick ultimately qualified third in the final round of knockout competition and will start right behind Stewart, who recorded his first Sprint Cup pole since Sept. 2012 and his 15th career pole overall.
“This thing was fast every round,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to hold on. It felt really fast up to (turns) three and four and then it got really loose the last half of the corner. This Chevy was fast today.”
This marks the first time there have been seven different pole qualifiers in as many races to start a season since 1998, according to NASCAR statisticians.
Even though it didn’t get the pole, Ford dominated in the final round of qualifying, putting six drivers in the top 10 starting positions.
With Stewart on the pole at 195.454 mph, the rest of the top 10 starters are: Brad Keselowski (195.397), Harvick (195.312), Greg Biffle (194.700), Carl Edwards (194.637), Denny Hamlin (194.623), Trevor Bayne (194.503), Ryan Newman (194.140), Marcos Ambrose (194.063) and Joey Logano (193.743).
Last week’s race winner at Martinsville, Kurt Busch, was fastest in morning practice but qualified 11th (193.126), still giving SHR three drivers in the top 11.
Of note, Jimmie Johnson failed to qualify for the final knockout round of 12, making it the first time this season that he hasn’t reached that round. Johnson will start 16th (194.007).
Logano remains as the only driver who has made the final round of qualifying in each of the first seven races thus far.
Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified 19th (193.354).
Austin Dillon was battling flu-like symptoms Saturday, but still made his qualifying run, ending up 20th (193.154). Younger brother Ty took a handful of laps during Saturday morning’s practice and is on standby if needed for his sibling in Sunday’s race.
Four drivers failed to qualify: David Stremme, JJ Yeley, Joe Nemechek and Ryan Treux.
Also, there were no mishaps in qualifying, just like Saturday’s mishap-free happy hour practice.
Harvick’s 198.282 mph blast around TMS in the opening round of the three-round qualifying session put him nearly a full one second fastest than the previous fastest 1.5-mile pole qualifying speed (197.478 mph by Geoff Bodine, Atlanta, Nov. 1997).
The next fastest pole speed for a 1.5-mile track is Denny Hamlin at Charlotte in May 2013 (195.624), followed by Joey Logano at Las Vegas last month (193.278) and Matt Kenseth at Kansas (191.864 in April 2013).
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Here’s the starting grid for Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Tony Stewart 195.454 mph, Brad Keselowski 195.419
Kevin Harvick 195.298, Greg Biffle 194.700
Carl Edwards 194.637, Denny Hamlin 194.623
Trevor Bayne 194.503, Ryan Newman 194.140
Marcos Ambrose 194.056, Joey Logano 193.743
Kurt Busch 193.126, Jeff Gordon 192.089
Paul Menard 194.259, Kyle Larson 194.084
Jamie McMurray 194.021, Jimmie Johnson 194.007
Aric Almirola 193.590, Martin Truex Jr. 193.493
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 193.354, Austin Dillon 193.154
Casey Mears 193.154, Justin Allgaier 192.981
Brian Vickers 192.768, Danica Patrick 192.761
Clint Bowyer 194.988, Matt Kenseth 194.637
Michael Annett 194.602, Michael McDowell 194.581
Kyle Busch 194.539, Alex Bowman 194.454
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 194.440, Kasey Kahne 194.028
AJ Allmendinger 193.611, David Reutimann 192.954
Dave Blaney 192.520, Parker Kligerman 192.219
Travis Kvapil 192.171, Reed Sorenson 191.748
David Gillland 191.625, Landon Cassill 191.408
Josh Wise 191.232, Cole Whitt 189.036
David Ragan 187.839