Kevin Harvick dropped the hammer, per usual this season, to kick off the Bank of America 500 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Harvick denied team boss and teammate Tony Stewart the chance to lead his first session since returning to the track back at Atlanta Motor Speedway the last weekend in August, at a nearly identical 1.5-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Harvick’s late flier, set within the final 10 minutes of the opening 90-minute practice session Thursday afternoon, was a 196.192 at 27.524 seconds. It was his fourth and final run of the session. Harvick has a series-leading eight pole positions in 2014.
Stewart-Haas Racing had been lined up for a 1-2-3 with Harvick ahead of Stewart and Kurt Busch, before Austin Dillon broke it up at 196.108 (27.536 seconds) to end second for Richard Childress Racing.
Stewart and Busch were 1-2, both over 194 mph, for most of the session with Stewart on top of Busch by exactly 0.001 of a second (27.704 to 27.705 seconds, respectively; 194.918 to 194.911 mph).
Stewart improved to third at 195.327, with Jeff Gordon fourth and Busch’s speed holding on for fifth.
Danica Patrick was also in the top 10 for the majority of the session, fell outside late as others ran quicker in the final stages, and then jumped back up to seventh with 194.770 set near the end of the session. Patrick posted her best career finish of sixth at Atlanta.
Besides the SHR quartet, Chevrolets were dominant overall. The “Bowtie Brigade” locked down 15 of the top 21 spots in the session.
Kyle Busch was the best Toyota in sixth, at 194.805, with Greg Biffle the top Ford in eighth at 194.679. Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. completed the top 10.
Of note, Jimmie Johnson was 14th, Kasey Kahne 20th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 21st and Brad Keselowski only 31st. These four currently sit on the outside of the top eight in points.
Qualifying occurs tonight from CMS, starting at 7:20 p.m. ET.