HAMPTON, Ga. – Kevin Harvick has this new knockout qualifying system figured out.
Harvick earned his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of the season Friday during qualifying for the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS topped the final round of knockout qualifying with his 21.118-second lap at 190.398 mph to secure the pole for Sunday’s race.
Harvick credited Tony Stewart, who is making his return to NASCAR this weekend, for giving him some advice that helped him earn the pole.
“He told me to go with what I knew from practice and switch our line there in one and two and it was a lot better on the bottom,” Harvick said. “Seems like there is a lot more back to normal with Tony here this week and hopefully we can turn this starting (qualifying) stuff into a win this week.”
Brad Keselowski put his Team Penske No. 2 Ford on the front row alongside Harvick with a fast time of 29.170 seconds at 190.058 mph during the final round of qualifying. Rookie Kyle Larson qualified third followed by Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.
Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth ahead of Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards. Stewart qualified 12th fastest in his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Almirola started off qualifying by topping the charts in the first round of knockout qualifying with his 28.984-second lap at 191.278 mph. He was followed by Kenseth, Busch, Keselowski and Larson. Ryan Newman qualified 25th and was the first driver who failed to advance to round two.
Kenseth jumped to the top of the charts in the second round of qualifying, circling the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.044 seconds at 190.883 mph. Harvick was second ahead of Keselowski, Larson and Gordon. Among those failing to advance to the final around were Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch.
Michael McDowell was the lone driver who failed to qualify for Sunday’s race. Ty Dillon, making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend, qualified 29th.