Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team celebrate winning the pole for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Kevin Harvick led a dominating performance by Ford during Friday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Series qualifying for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. With a 27.217-second/198.405 mph lap in the third and final lap of qualifying, he claimed his second pole of the season, the first of his career at Texas Motor Speedway. Even so, Harvick didn’t consider his run perfect.
“I just didn’t feel like I got through turns one and two like I needed to,” Harvick said. “The front took off, and I didn’t want to do what everyone was doing in practice and get out of the groove and drive it into the wall.”
Problems for some drivers in adapting to the newly-repaved and reconfigured track began in the day’s lone practice session. Chase Elliott and Erik Jones both wrecked and went to backup cars.
“Just got out of the groove there off [turn] two and got too high and got the wall,” Elliott said. “Then, had too much wheel in it going the other way, so just made a mistake on my end. I hate it. I thought our car was pretty good, so, hopefully, this one will be just as good, if not better.”
Meanwhile, veterans Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin spun in practice. Busch’s car sustained rear-end damage after backing into the wall, but his team made repairs to the primary vehicle.
Elliott and Jones’ teams had trouble getting their backup cars through pre-qualifying inspection, and Busch’s team had similar problems with its repaired machine. As a result, they were among the nine drivers who failed to get through inspection in time to make qualifying attempts. Other drivers failing attempts after inspection difficulties including series points leader Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne. They’ll start the race in the back, along with reigning and seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.
Reigning series champion got through practice unscathed and his car got through inspection, but Johnson spun on his cool-down lap during the first round of qualifying, damaging his tires. By that time, Johnson had posted a top-24 lap to advance to the second round of qualifying, but was unable to make a lap in the second round, relegating him to 24th. He’ll drop to the back at the start of the race, though, as he’ll need a tire change.
Ford dominated the three round qualifying session. Harvick was fastest in all three rounds of qualifying, en route to the pole, and fellow-Ford drivers claimed the top-four or five spots in all three rounds. In the end, the manufacturer laid claim the all top-five spots on the starting grid.
“I’m just really proud of everyone on our Jimmy Johns/Busch Ford,” Harvick said. “I have to thank everyone at Mobil 1, Outback, Hunt Brothers, Morton Off Road for sticking behind us with this Ford. It’s been a stressful day, coming in and breaking in a new race track and going out there running as fast as we had to run for qualifying.”
After posting the fastest lap in practice, Ryan Blaney claimed the other front-row starting spot.
“I thought we got better and better each round, which was nice,” Blaney said. “You always want to get better, and we did that. I think we have done that very well this year, compared to last year. I think I have gotten a lot better at that, and it was something we wanted to improve on. I feel like, last year, we were really good in the first round and not make the right adjustments or not go enough to keep progressing up positions through the sessions. I feel we have done a really good job of that this year. That is something to be proud of.”
Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano will line up in the second row in the third and fourth starting spots, while Brad Keselowski will start fifth.
Here’s a look at the complete starting grid for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway:
Row 1 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford)
Row 2 — Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 3 — Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet)
Row 4 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 5 — Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford)
Row 6 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford), Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford)
Row 7 — Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet), Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet)
Row 8 — Landon Cassill (No. 34 Ford), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota), Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford)
Row 10 — Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford), Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota)
Row 11 — David Ragan (No. 38 Ford), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Corey LaJoie (No. 83 Toyota), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford)
Row 14 — J.J. Yeley (No. 7 Chevrolet), Cole Whitt (No. 72 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — Gray Gaulding (No. 23 Toyota), Reed Sorenson (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 16 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 33 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 17 — Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
Row 18 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota)
Row 19 — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet)
Row 20 — Timmy Hill (No. 51 Chevrolet), Derrike Cope (No. 55 Toyota)