Harvick Scores His Third Brickyard Pole

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Kevin Harvick has earned the pole for the Big Machine Vodka 400. (IMS Photo)
Kevin Harvick has earned the pole for the Big Machine Vodka 400. (IMS Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick earned his third Big Machine Vodka 400 pole during qualifying Sunday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Harvick, in his No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, claimed the pole with a fast lap at 185.766 mph. It’s Harvick’s 30th career pole in 672 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts and his third pole in 19 races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Clean air will be huge,” Harvick said. “I thought we had a fast car yesterday in race practice. Clean air and strategy are important because handling will come into play at some point. You will have to hang on to them at the beginning of the run so there are a number of things having to come into play.

“Hopefully, today, we can finish where we start.”

The most important story in Sunday’s qualifications involve the four drivers trying to get locked into the 16-driver lineup for NASCAR’s Playoffs. Two of those made the top five, including Clint Bowyer, currently 14th in the standings. He qualified third at 185.277 mph in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Ford and starts behind second-place Paul Menard’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, who qualified at 185.724 mph.

Menard is the 2011 Big Machine Vodka 400 winner.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano qualified fourth at 185.193 mph in the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford. Jimmie Johnson, who is on the outside looking in at the playoff battle, qualified fifth in the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

The other two drivers fighting to make the playoffs are Daniel Suarez, who starts 20th in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Ford at 183.643 mph. Ryan Newman starts 22nd in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford at 183.275 mph.

Newman and Suarez are tied for the final playoff position entering Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson is 18 points below the cut line and there are two ways for him to get into the playoffs – hope Newman and Suarez both have terrible finishes or win the race.

The top 14 drivers are locked into the lineup based on wins and points. Positions 1-10 are race winners, with Kyle Busch leading the standings with four victories and 983 points and last week’s victor at Darlington, Erik Jones, the last winner to be locked in with a victory. He is currently 10th.

Positions 11-14 are locked in based on points.

Bowyer has position No. 15 with 625 points, Suarez is tied with Newman with 617 points each, but Suarez gets the position based on a tiebreaker. Johnson has 599 points.

Because of questionable weather, the starting time for Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 has been moved up to 2:05 p.m. Eastern Time.

Big Machine Vodka 400 Starting Lineup

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Paul Menard
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Joey Logano
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kyle Busch
8. Kurt Busch
9. Ryan Blaney
10. Aric Almirola
11. Daniel Hemric
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Alex Bowman
14. Erik Jones
15. Bubba Wallace
16. Chris Buescher
17. David Ragan
18. Austin Dillon
19. Kyle Larson
20. Daniel Suarez
21. Michael McDowell
22. Ryan Newman
23. Ryan Preece
24. Chase Elliott
25. Ty Dillon
26. Matt DiBenedetto
27. Martin Truex Jr.
28. Matt Tifft
29. William Byron
30. Corey LaJoie
31. Landon Cassill
32. Parker Kligerman
33. Denny Hamlin
34. Ross Chastain
35. B.J. McLeod
36. Ryan Sieg
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Garrett Smithley
39. Josh Bilicki
40. J.J. Yeley