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Harvick on pole for Darlington Cup race

Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick clinched pole position for this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway, just ahead of Penske's Joey Logano.
See full qualifying and Friday practice times from Darlington Raceway

Kevin Harvick made it a perfect day for Stewart-Haas Racing, after clinching pole position for Saturday night's Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway with a lap of 26.802s (183.479mph).

As well as earning his seventh pole in 474 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts - his first at Darlington and only his second in the last four years of competition - Friday's qualifying success also added to the delight of team co-owner Gene Haas who earlier in the day had been able to confirm that his application to enter a race team in the 2015 F1 world championship had been accepted by the FIA. (See separate story.)

"I don't know that that was all, but I don't know that you ever get a perfect lap here at Darlington," said Harvick. "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."

Harvick beat Joey Logano to pole position by just 0.063s as Team Penske once again proved themselves to be one of the best teams at mastering the new F1-style elimination round qualifying format. Logano is the only driver to have successfully advanced through to the final round in every Cup race so far since the new system was introduced by NASCAR across all three of its national series at the start of the 2014 season

"It is crazy because you are right up against the wall and if you give up a little you are mad and if you go too hard you are in the fence," Logano explained. "It is crazy when you go through one and two and you get to turn two and you never lift.

"You are just wide open and it is like, 'Holy Cow!' - it is such a cool place to qualify," he added. "That is probably the most fun you will have all weekend. It gets tougher for the race. Overall it keeps us as the only car that has gotten through every session this year and I am proud of that still. Track position is important here and starting on the front row is a good thing."

Richard Petty Motorsports locked up the second row of the grid for the race with Aric Almirola set to line up in third place and Marcos Ambrose alongside him in fourth. Almirola previously set the fastest time of the second round and indeed of the whole of qualifying, his time of 26.705s (184.145mph) setting a new track record for qualifying at Darlington.

"The track record lap I actually felt like I was going faster in the third session than the second session but the record was in the second session. It was a great lap for us," said Almirola. "We missed it just a little bit. We made one adjustment right before the third session and I don't think we went quite far enough. We were just a little too tight but that was a heck of a lap by Harvick."

"We will take that," added Ambrose. "It was a really strong effort for RPM. I was just told it was a record for RPM's starting positions for both myself and Aric. We are really thrilled with that. I thought we had a shot at the pole there for a minute, it just got a little slick. It got a little loose there for a bit and that probably cost us, but overall it is a great day for us."

The RPM pair start just ahead of Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray on row three, while Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch will occupy row four for the drop of the green flag. Seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon will start ninth alongside Denny Hamlin, while Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. were the final two drivers to make it into the pole shootout.

The tricky 1.366-mile 'pinched' paperclip oval - a configuration unique on the Cup schedule - caught out a lot of big names, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and last week's pole winner Tony Stewart all failing to advance from round 2. Even more disadvantaged were Joe Gibbs Racing's Matt Kenseth and Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson who both narrowly failed to progress from the first found of qualifying and who will now start from 25th and 26th pace on the grid respectively.

"The car was plenty comfortable," insisted Johnson. "The first time out maybe I left a little on the table that would have transferred me into the second round. That second time out we got tight: the car has been comfortable, but we have just been lacking speed to go with it.

"I'm just disappointed we didn't get a better lap," he added. "We've been working hard to get speed in the car today and have just been a little short on that. But there is still an evening and most of tomorrow to sort things out there and we'll get this Kobalt Tools Chevrolet where it needs to be."

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start just behind Kenseth and Johnson in 28th place, and also starting low down on the grid is Kevin Harvick's SHR team mate Danica Patrick who will line-up in 33rd place. With 44 drivers vying for a spot on the grid, only one car failed to qualify on Friday - the #35 entry driven by David Reutimann.

See full qualifying and Friday practice times from Darlington Raceway



Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick in the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. (Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS celebrates his win March 2, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, AZ. Harvick is 4th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won the Pole position Friday, April 11, 2014 for Saturday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 26th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (L), driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, talks to Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer Bowl Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart at Dover International Speedway on May 30 2014. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR Media)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and his team celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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