INDIANAPOLIS – Already a winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2003 Brickyard 400 winner Kevin Harvick added a track record lap to his career accomplishments on Saturday.
Harvick’s fast lap of 188.889 mph in a Chevrolet in the first of three qualifying rounds set the NASCAR record at this track. Harvick’s Chevy was also the fastest in round three and the decisive round three of qualifying to win the pole for Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard.
“After the first lap I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying,” Harvick admitted. “I just wasn’t really expecting to have the car run that fast, and then from there, they’re all looking at you. ‘All right, if you screw this up, it’s on you, buddy.’
“It’s great to have fast cars. They (Stewart-Haas Racing) do a great job preparing the cars and just being able to come to the racetrack and know that the car is going to be fast just takes a huge burden off of everybody’s shoulders just to get the balance right. It’s been a unique few hours of practice with the racetrack being green this morning. We concentrated on qualifying and felt our race stuff was in the ballpark yesterday and still kind of up in the air, but we made a lot of good decisions today to get the car right, and hopefully tonight we can talk through it and see where this Nationwide race goes and go from there.
“It’s been an interesting weekend so far, but everybody has done a good job in scrambling to get the balance right.”
Harvick is already a two-time race winner this season but has dipped to 13th in points. He is guaranteed a starting position in the 16-driver “Chase Grid” based on his number of victories but a third win this season would help Harvick regain some momentum over the final seven races before “The Chase” begins on Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway.
“Whether something goes wrong or a mistake or whatever it may be, it’s time to go,” Harvick said. “We’ve all talked about it, and it’s time to get into Chase form, and this is where it all starts. Everything is capable and everybody has been working hard and making adjustments and doing the things they need to do to get better, and I feel good about where everything is.
“Having the first pit stall is going to take some pressure off the guys for sure, and if we get behind, I think our car is fast enough to make up for it, but the track position is definitely important, and we just have to make good decisions throughout the day and as few mistakes as possible and see if it all falls our way, but the car is capable of doing what it needs to do.”
It was Harvick’s second Brickyard 400 pole. He also started on the pole the year he won in 2003. It is also the second-straight Brickyard 400 pole for Stewart-Haas Racing. Ryan Newman won the pole and won the race last year.
Four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, who won the inaugural race in 1994, was second fastest in Round 3 at 187.770 mph in a Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon is the Sprint Cup points leader entering the race and already has one victory this season.
“I feel extremely good, excited about it,” Gordon said of scoring a fifth Brickyard 400 win on Sunday. “I was in here yesterday and talking about how good our race team is and how good I thought our race car was going to be, and today kind of proves that. Kevin was certainly very, very quick, and it was nice to close that gap a little bit on him that third session, but I feel very confident about this weekend. Starting on the front row is an excellent place to start. Track position is extremely important, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts that we had today and in that qualifying session to get us that front row start.”