Harvick Wins Darlington Pole

Kevin Harvick

Harvick won his first pole at Darlington and the seventh of his career with a lap of 183.479 mph. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)


Starting Lineup

DARLINGTON, S.C. - Although his car was six minutes late to qualifying because of issues in inspection, Kevin Harvick rallied for his first pole of the season Friday night at Darlington Raceway.

Crew chief Rodney Childers said Harvick’s car had to go through inspection three times. The car wasn’t cleared until six minutes into the 25-minute opening session. Childers said the issue was with the car’s rear toe.

“It just seemed like the machine was a little bit off there for qualifying,’’ Childers said of NASCAR’s measuring device. “A lot of people had left-rear toe issues. We rolled through the first time and saw what it was and did what we always do to fix that amount, and we rolled back through again and it read the same thing again, which it shouldn’t have.

“It’s part of the process. It’s up to the teams to get it right. Different teams have different tools in order to know whether they’re going to be good or not. We haven’t got the right tools developed yet to know that. It’s something we’ve got to work on at (Stewart-Haas Racing). NASCAR works hard every week to try to get their machine closer and closer and more consistent. It’s a two-way street. We’ve got to do a better job.’’

Once through inspection, Harvick was fast.

He won the Bojangles’ Southern 500 pole with a lap of 183.479 mph. Joey Logano starts second at 183.049 mph. Aric Almirola qualified third with Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose fourth and Brad Keselowski fifth.

Harvick credited Childers and spotter Tim Fedewa with helping win the pole.

“I was on the bottom all day in practice and Rodney felt like in order to get the pole you were going to need to run the top after we ran our first run,’’ Harvick said. “That is the driver in him that is why he is good to have sitting there watching because he knows what is going on and he can relay. 

“Also having Tim Fedewa up on top as a former driver knowing what is going on to relay what you need to do. We moved up and picked up in the second (session), felt like I didn’t roll through there fast enough. In the last (session), felt like I rolled through there pretty good. It all worked out. Knockout qualifying paid off for us today. We were able to save the best for last.”

Almirola set the track record in the second round at 184.145 mph. The previous record was 181.918 mph set last year by Kurt Busch.

Some didn’t have it as good.

Jimmie Johnson will start 26th. He’s only started one Southern 500 worse than that.      

“There was a little confusion there at the end,’’ Johnson said. “We were trying to get back out for a third run, and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) took his radio off and thought we were done. So that’s where that confusion came from. But I’m just disappointed we didn’t get a better lap. We’ve been working hard to get speed in the car today and have just been a little short on that.”

Defending race winner Matt Kenseth starts 25th. He and Johnson failed to advance to the second round of qualifying.

“It’s been a little bit of a struggle all day really,’’ Kenseth said. “I thought they made some good adjustments and we ran the same lap times both times and felt like I got everything both times. Still looking for it a little bit. It’s odd that we got the pole at California a few weeks ago and now we haven’t made it through the first round the last two weeks. We’re still trying to find that balance and that speed.”

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