Another Friday, another Sprint Cup pole for Kevin Harvick

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Kevin Harvick continues to set the standard in qualifying this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver earned his eighth Cup pole of 2014 and his third consecutive Cup pole on the fast, 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway with a track record lap of 197.621 miles per hour.

But will this set him up for a critical victory in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 that would put him into the Eliminator Round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

Or is he in for more disappointment like he had one week ago at Dover – and at multiple other points this season?

Harvick feels that good luck is all he and his No. 4 team really needs. Indeed, it appears they have pretty much everything else down.

“I just feel like with a little bit of good luck, we can beat every car on the race track on any given weekend at any style of race track,” he told ESPN. “And that’s a really positive, good feeling to have as a race car driver.

“Our guys have a lot of confidence in what they’re putting on the race track, and everybody knows that if the chips fall right, we have the speed and the cars to do what we need to do.

“We’ve made adjustments with the reliability from the beginning of the year and the pit crew…Everything’s there. It’s just a matter of everything coming together on the luck side and we’ll just keep plugging away.”

Joining Harvick on the front row will be Brian Vickers, whose strong lap of 196.307 mph was still more than one mile per hour off Harvick’s pole run.

Seven other Chasers managed to get in the final round of qualifying and will be starting toward the front. This group is led by Joey Logano, who will be on the outside of Row 2 alongside the recently eliminated Aric Almirola.

Last week’s winner, Jeff Gordon, and Brad Keselowski are in Row 3 followed by Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Row 4. Non-Chase competitor Tony Stewart will join Kasey Kahne in Row 5, and Row 6 features Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle (like Almirola, eliminated at Dover) and Carl Edwards.

But farther back, three Chasers in particular will be facing a tough climb on Sunday afternoon.

Denny Hamlin ran an identical time – a 27.873 – with Newman for the final advance position in the opening round, but because Newman had a higher Chase seed going into Kansas, Newman got to move to Round 2.

Hamlin will start 25th, just two spots ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in 27th. And defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will be in an even bigger hole, having to start 32nd following a spin in Turn 2 with about five minutes left in Round 1.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT KANSAS – Hollywood Casino 400
Qualifying Results
1. *4-Kevin Harvick
2. 55-Brian Vickers
3. 43-Aric Almirola
4. *22-Joey Logano
5. *24-Jeff Gordon
6. *2-Brad Keselowski
7. *18-Kyle Busch
8. *88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
9. 14-Tony Stewart
10. *5-Kasey Kahne
11. 16-Greg Biffle
12. *99-Carl Edwards
13. 27-Paul Menard
14. 1-Jamie McMurray
15. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
16. 3-Austin Dillon
17. *31-Ryan Newman
18. 42-Kyle Larson
19. 15-Clint Bowyer
20. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
21. 51-Justin Allgaier
22. 9-Marcos Ambrose
23. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
24. 41-Kurt Busch
25. *11-Denny Hamlin
26. 13-Casey Mears
27. *20-Matt Kenseth
28. 95-Michael McDowell
29. 10-Danica Patrick
30. 36-Reed Sorenson
31. 38-David Gilliland
32. *48-Jimmie Johnson
33. 23-Alex Bowman
34. 98-Josh Wise
35. 40-Landon Cassill
36. 7-Michael Annett
37. 34-David Ragan
38. 83-J.J. Yeley
39. 26-Cole Whitt
40. 33-Timmy Hill
41. 37-Mike Bliss
42. 32-Joey Gase
43. 66-Mike Wallace
*Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.