Harvick Sweeps Brickyard Qualifying
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 26, 2014 | 3:15 P.M. EST
Harvick set a new track record in the first round of qualifying with a lap of 47.647 seconds, 188.889 mph. (Photo: Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - This looks awfully familiar.
Kevin Harvick fast, Hendrick motors strong and Team Penske nearly as quick.
Qualifying for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway revealed few surprises. Most of what happened Saturday has been evident throughout the season.
Harvick scored his fourth pole of the season (and 10th overall) with a track-record lap of 188.889 mph.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing team gets its chassis and motors from Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick-powered cars took six of the top 11 spots Saturday. Team Penske took three of the top 11 spots, leaving only two spots among the fastest 11 not a Penske car or one powered by a Hendrick motor. Just like it has been a good part of this season.
“I was wondering what Kevin had because he had us all beat, and we've got the same stuff basically and all the data that we can tap into,’’ Jeff Gordon said. “And they had the field covered.’’
Gordon starts second with Brad Keselowski, who has won two of the last three races, third. Defending Indy winner Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers complete the top five.
Harvick has been fast all season and could have more than two wins had it not been for mistakes and mechanical issues. Harvick said this week that it was time to get into Chase mode for his team.
“We just have to make good decisions throughout the day and as few mistakes as possible,’’ he said. “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.’’
Keselowski said its hard to determine if others are closing the gap on the Penske cars and Hendrick-powered teams.
“We think that we have the two strongest hands with Penske and Hendrick, and certainly that's been the case to this date in the season, but you just don't know what's out there,’’ Keselowski said.
“I find it hard to believe that Gibbs is going to go a whole year without having a dominant car. That's not like them. So I'm sure they're going to catch on as the season progresses and add to that mix and maybe even someone else. Maybe an MWR or an RCR, who knows.’’
The top Gibbs car is Kyle Busch, who starts 12th. Teammate Matt Kenseth is 13th but Denny Hamlin qualified 27th.
One of those Hendrick-powered cars not toward the front is Dale Earnhardt Jr., who qualified 23rd.
“It was pretty pathetic,’’ Earnhardt said of his qualifying performance. “Real frustrated with the way the car was and the speed we got.’’
Earnhardt was fifth fastest in Saturday morning’s practice session but says that time was misleading.
“We weren’t good in practice,’’ he said. “That lap we put down was on a cold track ... after it had rained. The lap was just perfect race track. When we went to practice later in the practice, we were real slow. Once the track changed ... we weren’t very good.’’
Those failing to qualify were Brett Moffitt, David Stremme and Matt Crafton. Bobby Labonte starts last for Tommy Baldwin Racing, getting the champion’s provisional.