Date: April 11, 2014
Event: Southern 500 Qualifying (Round 8 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway (1.366-mile oval)
Pole Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (26.802 seconds at 183.479 mph)
SHR Lineup: Kevin Harvick (1st, 26.802 seconds at 183.479 mph)
Kurt Busch (13th, 26.993 seconds at 182.181 mph)
Tony Stewart (23rd, 27.292 seconds at 180.185 mph)
Danica Patrick (33rd, 27.296 seconds at 180.158 mph)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway by winning the pole for Saturday night’s Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Harvick turned a lap of 26.802 seconds at 183.479 mph on the 1.366-mile oval in the final round of knockout qualifying.
It was Harvick’s seventh career Sprint Cup pole, his first of the season and his first at Darlington. Harvick last won a Sprint Cup pole at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City on Oct. 4, 2013, 13 races ago. It was also the 15th Sprint Cup pole for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s second straight, as Tony Stewart won the pole last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
“I don’t know that you ever get a perfect lap here at Darlington,” said Harvick, whose best Sprint Cup finish at Darlington is second, earned in the 2003 Southern 500. “This is a track that’s a lot of fun to drive, but every lap is different and challenging and you could probably pick apart even your good laps and feel like you can make them better. But I’ve just got to thank everybody on our Budweiser Chevrolet. They’ve done a great job. To win here would mean a lot.”
Qualifying consisted of three rounds. The first was 25 minutes, with every driver on the track vying to set the fastest lap. The 24 fastest drivers from the first round advanced to the second, 10-minute round. The fastest 12 drivers from that session advanced to the final, five-minute round of qualifying where they battled for the pole. Positions 1-12 were set by speeds in the final round. Positions 13-24 were set by speeds in the second round. The remaining 43-car field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance past the first round.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 13th with a time of 26.802 seconds at 182.181 mph.
“We had a top-10 Haas Automation Chevrolet for most of the day,” said Busch, who has three top-five finishes in 17 career Sprint Cup starts at Darlington. “We had a good first round and I held back just a bit to save some for the next round. In the second round I thought I had a pretty good lap, but just missed it by .02 of a second. We tried to make one last run in the second round and didn’t get out in time. We’ll learn from it. We start 13th tomorrow and we can work with that and be there at the end.”
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 23rd with a lap of 27.292 seconds at 180.185 mph.
“We got sideways there on our first run in the second round and when we tried to get a better run there at the end, we lost the nose off turn two,” said Stewart, who is still in search of his first Sprint Cup win at Darlington. “This is a tough track and it proved it today. But this Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 team is tough too. Today was about a couple of laps. Tomorrow is about 367 of ‘em. That’s our focus.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 33rd with a time of 27.296 seconds at 180.158 mph.
“We picked up a lot from practice today with our GoDaddy Chevy, but it just wasn’t enough,” said Patrick, who has two Sprint Cup starts and one NASCAR Nationwide Series start at Darlington. “Our car was too tight the first run. So, (Tony) Gibson made a change before our second run, and it really felt like a good change. The car rotated through the center better, and the car really felt better in turns one and two, but it just didn’t get any faster. It was a good effort. I just wish we had a little bit more.”
Joey Logano will start on the outside of row one after timing in at 26.865 seconds at 183.049 mph.
The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. All are listed in the order they’ll start Saturday night’s race.
Almirola set a new track qualifying record in the second round with a lap of 26.705 seconds at 184.145 mph, breaking the previous Sprint Cup track qualifying record of 27.032 seconds at 181.918 mph set by Kurt Busch on May 10, 2013.
Forty-four drivers attempted to qualify for the 43-car field. David Reutimann was the lone driver who did not make the race.