Second Straight Pole for Harvick
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 29, 2014 | 8:15 P.M. EST
HAMPTON, Ga. - Kevin Harvick won his second consecutive pole, and Tony Stewart qualified 12th Friday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick claimed his sixth pole of the season and 12th of his career with a lap of 190.398 mph. Brad Keselowski will start second with Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth completing the top five.
Stewart made it to the final round in his first time back at the track since he was involved in a fatal sprint car accident Aug. 9.
“I just didn’t get it down in (Turn) 1,’’ Stewart said on the radio to his team after his final-round lap.
Said crew chief Chad Johnston: “I saw you turn it down there and then decided not to or it wouldn’t go.’’
“Good job today guys, sorry about that,’’ Stewart said.
Harvick won the pole after being only 16h in the first round.
“Our car didn’t really change that much,’’ he said. “I just messed the first round up really bad trying to do something that I wasn’t doing in practice. Luckily, we were fast enough to be able to get through the first round into the second round. The second round we got into a little better rhythm where I wanted to run on the racetrack.’’
Keselowski had never started better than 14th for a Cup race at Atlanta until Friday. This marks his 10th front-row starting spot this season.
“It’s by far the best qualifying effort I’ve ever had here,’’ Keselowski said. “That’s a testament to the team and the work they’ve done.’’
Ty Dillon will make his Cup debut on Sunday from the 29th starting spot.
“It’s tough to come in your first time, three-quarters of way through the season and expect a great qualifying effort,’’ Dillon said. “We’ll keep working hard. It was a lot of fun going out there and qualifying with the big guys.’’
The three-round qualifying session started with a few cars, including those of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Larson and Stewart going through inspection. Earnhardt’s car was the last car to complete inspection, heading to pit round with less than 11 minutes left in the 25-minute opening round.
“We just had a little trouble passing the platform and had to go around once,’’ said Steve Letarte, crew chief for Earnhardt. “The time between practice and qualifying, it might not seem tight but to inspect that many cars it’s tight.”
After going back through inspection, Letarte said the car was off again and had to go through a third time. Asked if it was a rear camber issue, Letarte said “it was a setting in the back.’’
Earnhardt qualified 20th and Letarte said it was better than they ran in practice.
“We’ve just got to find more speed in qualifying,’’ Letarte said. “We’ve struggled in qualifying most of the year. Fortunately, we haven’t struggled in the race.’’