Kevin Harvick claims pole for Challenger Round finale at Dover

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Out of the 14 drivers that have not yet advanced in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kevin Harvick has perhaps the most clear path to moving on after Sunday’s Challenger Round finale at Dover International Speedway. All he needs to do is finish 34th or better.

But it appears he really wants to make sure he’s good for the Contender Round.

Harvick captured his seventh Sprint Cup pole of the season and his first ever at the Monster Mile with a lap of 162.933 mph in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

“They just do a great job in preparing the race cars and put a lot of effort into qualifying, and it’s translated into a lot of good finishes,” Harvick said to ESPN about his team’s efforts.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. Obviously, track position is huge here, especially at the beginning of the race. I’ve never been in that [No. 1] stall [at Dover], so I guess it’s gonna be OK on that end of pit road.”

At 41 points ahead of the cut-off, Harvick knows he’s in good shape. And with that, winning is the only goal he has in mind on Sunday.

“You just want to keep building on the momentum that we have, to try and further that as we lead into Kansas,” he said.

Harvick knocked Brad Keselowski off the pole with less than six minutes to go in the final round of qualifying.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (162.404) and Denny Hamlin (162.250) were also able to eclipse Keselowski (162.140), while Jamie McMurray of Chip Ganassi Racing (161.936) was the fastest of the non-Chase competitors in fifth.

Other Chasers that cracked the final round of qualifying today were Jeff Gordon in sixth, Jimmie Johnson in eighth, and Kasey Kahne in 12th.

Going into Sunday, Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, and Aric Almirola are the four drivers that are outside the Top 12 in the Chase Grid. Hamlin helped his cause today, but the other three in this group will all have to start from mid-pack: Almirola from 21st, Kurt Busch from 22nd, and Biffle from 27th.

That said, everyone from Carl Edwards in eighth on back to Almirola in 16th is on that advance bubble. Edwards, who’s eight points over the cutoff, qualified 18th today after waiting until late in the first round to set its qualifying lap.

“I think [crew chief] Jimmy [Fennig] made the right call – at the end of the day, we qualified 18th on our first lap, but if we had gone early, I think we would’ve been 24th and 25th,” Edwards said.

“…I just hope our Fastenal Ford is good in race trim. We’re gonna work really hard on that tomorrow. Obviously, it’s an important race for us. The pressure’s on.”

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT DOVER – AAA 400 (Challenger Round Finale)
Qualifying Results

1. *4-Kevin Harvick
2. *18-Kyle Busch
3. *11-Denny Hamlin
4. *2-Brad Keselowski
5. 1-Jamie McMurray
6. *24-Jeff Gordon
7. 42-Kyle Larson
8. *48-Jimmie Johnson
9. 15-Clint Bowyer
10. 3-Austin Dillon
11. 55-Brian Vickers
12. *5-Kasey Kahne
13. 10-Danica Patrick
14. *20-Matt Kenseth
15. 14-Tony Stewart
16. *22-Joey Logano
17. 9-Marcos Ambrose
18. *99-Carl Edwards
19. 27-Paul Menard
20. *31-Ryan Newman
21. *43-Aric Almirola
22. *41-Kurt Busch
23. 51-Justin Allgaier
24. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25. *88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
26. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
27. *16-Greg Biffle
28. *47-A.J. Allmendinger
29. 26-Cole Whitt
30. 13-Casey Mears
31. 38-David Gilliland
32. 98-Josh Wise
33. 36-Reed Sorenson
34. 23-Alex Bowman
35. 7-Michael Annett
36. 40-Landon Cassill
37. 34-David Ragan
38. 33-David Stremme
39. 32-J.J. Yeley
40. 37-Mike Bliss
41. 66-Mike Wallace
42. 83-Travis Kvapil
43. 44-Timmy Hill
*Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.