RICHMOND, Va. – Though the start to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has been dominated by Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing, Kevin Harvick sent a reminder on Friday evening that Stewart-Haas Racing is still in the mix.
Harvick raced to the provisional Busch Pole Award at Richmond Raceway during Cup Series qualifying, posting a time of 21.722 seconds (124.298 mph) in the final round with his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang.
Friday’s effort marked Harvick’s 27th career Cup Series pole, his second of the season and third at Richmond. The full starting lineup will be confirmed following pre-race inspection on Saturday.
“We did a great job today,” said Harvick, who also started from the pole at Richmond last fall. “I didn’t think that it was a perfect lap from my side of things, but I was able to get in the throttle on the exit of the corner and put down a decent lap. You just have to go faster than everyone else. The car has been really close all week for us. The only adjustment we made was a little bit of wedge in that last round.
“Last week was a success for us, from a speed standpoint,” Harvick added. “That was really the first week that we were be able to have the speed to win the race, I feel like; we just had a lot of things go wrong. The most important thing was that we had speed, and we hope to continue that this weekend.”
Erik Jones will join Harvick on the front row for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400, turning a lap of 21.760 seconds (124.081 mph) in the final round with his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota Camry.
Jones is seeking his second-career Cup Series victory and first at Richmond this weekend.
“I think it helped us, for sure, being able to roll out first in every round and get out on a clean track,” noted Jones. “The DeWalt Camry has been driving really well and this is our best start at Richmond, by far. That’s a good feeling, not to mention that we’re coming off a couple of good weeks. I feel like we’ve had cars that can contend for wins; we just haven’t had things go our way just yet.
“Hopefully tomorrow night is the night that it all goes our way and we can park in victory lane.”
After topping the opening round of qualifying, Kurt Busch landed third during his run for the pole, ahead of Joey Logano and second-round leader Kyle Busch.
Martin Truex Jr. qualified sixth, followed by Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson, Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski among the drivers who advanced through all three knockout rounds.
Paul Menard was the first driver who missed the cut in round two, placing the No. 21 Menards/Maytag Ford Mustang 13th on the grid for the Wood Brothers.
Other notables mired deep in the field for Saturday night’s race include Kyle Larson (14th), Aric Almirola (15th), Alex Bowman (17th), Denny Hamlin (18th) and Clint Bowyer (21st).
In a surprising turn of events, both Ryan Blaney (29th) and Ryan Newman (31st) were knocked out in the opening round on Friday, leaving them furthest back among the potential contenders for the win.
To view complete qualifying results, advance to the next page.