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

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen takes pole at Brazilian GP

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has taken pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

It’s the second career pole for the Dutch driver, who beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just 0.123 seconds.

Verstappen’s first pole was earlier this season at the Hungarian GP in August.

Six-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes will start from third position. The 2018 winner at Interlagos finished 0.191 seconds back.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Hamilton was fastest in final practice earlier Saturday, 0.026 quicker than Verstappen.

The Brazilian GP on Sunday is the penultimate race of the season. Hamilton secured the season title, his sixth, in the previous race in the U.S.