Kevin Harvick edges Jeff Gordon for Bristol Sprint Cup pole

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As he crossed the finish line Friday afternoon with what looked like it would be a pole-winning run for Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race with a Bristol Motor Speedway track record run of 14.615 seconds, Jeff Gordon said over his team radio, “That’s all I’ve got.”

But only a few seconds later, Kevin Harvick found a bit more than Gordon, taking the pole with yet another track record mark of 14.607 seconds on the .533-mile high-banked oval.

Harvick also set a track speed record of 131.362 mph, to 131.290 mph for Gordon.

“It feels great,” Harvick said. “I just have to thank everybody on our Jimmy John’s team for really everything they do every week for qualifying and race cars that they bring to the race track are just incredibly fast.  They have helped improve my qualifying record a tremendous amount.  Today was no different.”

Harvick made it the 18th time a track record has been broken in the first 24 races this season. Now he’s hoping to start from the pole and finish with the checkered flag.

“Track position is definitely as important as it is anywhere here with the current groove and where you are running,” Harvick said. ” I felt good about our car during practice and just have to stay in there all night and do the best we can.”

Carl Edwards will start third (131.209 mph), followed by Kyle Busch (131.057), Jimmie Johnson (131.030), Joey Logano (131.030), Kurt Busch (130.940), Greg Biffle (130.869), Brad Keselowski (130.504), Marcos Ambrose (130.460), Ryan Newman (130.168) and Kasey Kahne (130.009).

While the second part of the qualifying session was without incident, that wasn’t the case in the first part of the session. Several drivers wound up in trouble by overdriving the track.

Among those, Aric Almirola, who slammed his right rear quarter, Kyle Larson (who was fastest in one of the practice sessions earlier in the day) slammed both the right rear and left front of his car, and Cole Whitt did likewise.

Gordon showed he’s still riding a wave of momentum after his win this past Sunday at Michigan. He was fastest in the first part of qualifying with a mark of 14.688 seconds.

Gordon then topped that mark in the second part of the session, resetting his freshly-minted mark with an even-better 14.615.

While it looked like that mark would hold up, Harvick had other ideas and will start Saturday night’s race from the top spot – and with Gordon alongside.

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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.