For only the sixth time in his entire career – and the first time since the 2006 fall race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Kevin Harvick will lead a NASCAR Sprint Cup field to the green flag this weekend.
Harvick, who sits fourth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at 39 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, earned the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway – the fourth race of this year’s post-season stretch – with a lap of 187.526 miles per hour in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
In that 2006 race at the “Magic Mile,” Harvick converted the pole into a win. Considering the points gap between himself and Kenseth, he may need to do that again in order to make any gains against the 2003 Cup champion in the title picture.
Harvick is one of six Chase contenders that will line up within the Top 10 positions on Sunday’s grid. Jimmie Johnson, who moved into second place in the championship with his win last week at Dover, qualified third, followed by Joey Logano in fifth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in sixth, Kenseth in seventh, and Carl Edwards in ninth.
As for the rest of the Chasers, Jeff Gordon qualified 14th, Kasey Kahne in 15th, Ryan Newman in 17th, Kyle Busch in 18th, Kurt Busch in 19th, Clint Bowyer in 22nd, and Greg Biffle in 26th.
Roush Fenway rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was the fastest of the non-Chase drivers in qualifying, and will start alongside Harvick on the front row after putting down a lap of 187.480 miles per hour.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.