Kevin Harvick will start from pole position for Sunday afternoon's Quicken Loans 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway after posting a qualifying time of 35.198s on the two-mile speedway.

That translates to a speed of 204.557mph, making it the fastest lap seen in a Cup qualifying session since Bill Elliott set the all-time qualifying record of 212.809mph at Talladega Superspeedway in the pre-restrictor plate era. It gives Harvick his ninth pole in 481 Cup starts and his third of 2014 - a season-best for Harvick.

Given that Harvick topped all three rounds of the elimination qualifying format on Friday afternoon, it's something of a surprise that Harvick has never started from pole position at Michigan before in 27 appearances in Cup events.

"I think that is just a credit on [the] Stewart-Haas race team for putting fast race cars on the track," said Harvick. "When you put it together with the Hendrick Motorsports engine package it creates a lot of speed and it makes coming to these place a lot of fun.

"You just have to relax and really pay attention to not overdrive it because it's so easy to miss your line on the entry to the corner," he continued. "Really excited to start on the pole and get that first pit box and hopefully we can put the whole day together on Sunday."

Harvick said the decision to go early in the final round of qualifying had proved decisive in clinching pole: "We just kind of wanted to go right at the beginning of that session," he said. " The second session I got too close to the #88 [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] coming to the green and I felt like it hurt my lap. We just tried to get a clean lap that time. The car actually ran the fastest that it had. I think clean air for us was probably a better decision."

Despite the #4's pace, only one other SHR car - the #41 of Kurt Busch - made it through to the final round. While Busch will start Sunday's race from eighth place, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick both missed the out at the end of first qualifying and will have to make their way forward from 26th and 27th positions respectively.

Instead, Harvick will share the front row with fellow Chevrolet man Jeff Gordon who was 0.135s off the pole time. Gordon's Hendrick team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start just behind in third place alongside Richard Petty Motorsport's Aric Almirola, while Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard will start alongside Penske's Brad Keselowski on row three.

Outside the top 12, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch just failed to make the final round of qualifying which means they will start alongside each other in 13th and 14th place. The two have been at odds ever since Kahne crashed out at last week's race at Pocono following contact with Busch, making their pairing on row seven especially ironic.

"He sent me an email, then a text to ask if I got it," Kahne said. "I told him I did, and that is how it went ... But as far as us talking, we haven't. He did write me an email, but I don't really care anymore. I don't care to talk to him or anything.

"I talked through every situation and scenario last year with him when we had them, and to this day, I've still raced him the exact same way," Kahne added. "For him to do that, I knew it was coming as soon as he floored it in the corner. I was like 'He can't. He can't. He's going to run me right in the wall'. I think he was having a bad day, and just loses it."

Kyle Larson did make the top 12 but didn't set a time in the final round. Earlier in the day the 21-year-old from California had revealed that he and girlfriend Katelyn Sweet are expecting a child at Christmas.

By coincidence, the man Larson replaced in the #42 Chip Ganassi Racing car - Juan Pablo Montoya - was back in a Sprint Cup car for the first time this weekend since he exited NASCAR at the end of the 2013 season in favour of a new berth in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Team Penske.

Penske have now opted to also field Montoya in the #12 Cup car alongside their regular drivers Keselowski and Joey Logano for two races in 2014, at Michigan this weekend and also the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. Montoya said that he was pleased to be back as he qualified in 28th place.

"For me it's more of an opportunity to maybe win a race or two [in NASCAR]," said Montoya, who never won on an oval in 253 Cup starts. "This is probably one of the best tracks for the Fords. They always excel here and have a car that can win, and the way Team Penske is running right now, if it clicks from the beginning, and we hope it does, we might have a shot at winning this.

"I think this track, with my background in open wheel, coming here is gonna play into my hands a little bit because it's a really fast track," explained Montoya. "It's a track you don't brake, it's a track where you're really controlling the throttle and you do that a lot in IndyCar.

"Last year I think I qualified 10th and sixth last year in the Ganassi car, so coming here is really exciting. Roger gave me the opportunity to come here and we want to make SKF and the Ford group proud of what we can do."

See full qualifying and Friday practice results


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