CLICK: Full Sprint Cup qualifying results from Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Kevin Harvick proved unstoppable in Sprint Cup qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, as he topped each of the three elimination rounds - the first time anyone's achieved that since the new format was brought in - on his way to pick up pole position with a final round effort of 47.753s (188.470mph).
That makes it Harvick's tenth career pole in 486 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, and his fourth of 2014. It's the second time that he'll have started from the front at the historic IMS.
Harvick also set a new qualifying track record for Cup cars at Indianapolis, after opening his qualifying with a first round effort of 47.647s (188.889mph) when his tyres were at their freshest. That eclipses the old track record of 187.531mph set last year by last year's race winner Ryan Newman, the driver that Harvick replaced at Stewart-Haas Racing at the start of this season and who will start from fourth place on Sunday.
"After the first lap I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying," Harvick said afterwards. "I wasn't really expecting to have the car run that fast. From there they are all looking at you: 'Alright if you screw this up it's on you buddy!'
"It's great to have fast cars they do a great job preparing the cars and just being able to come to the race track and know the cars are going to be fast takes a huge burden off of everybody's shoulders just to get the balance right," he continued. "It's been a unique few hours of practice with the race track being green this morning. We concentrated on qualifying and felt our race stuff was in the ball park yesterday and still kind of up in the air, but we made a lot of good decisions today to get the car right.
"It's been an interesting weekend so far, but everybody has done a good job in scrambling to get the balance right," he added.
Team boss Tony Stewart - who himself qualified in sixth place for Sunday afternoon's Crown Royal Brickyard 400 just ahead of a third member of the SHR line-up Kurt Busch - was more than happy with the team's progress so far this weekend.
"We had an awesome day today the guys on the Mobil 1 team did a great job," he acknowledged. "Kevin with his team and all three of us had good runs. Danica [Patrick] had a good run too she just missed it by a little bit to get in that final round. The entire Stewart-Haas organization did a good job."
Harvick will be joined on the front row by Hendrick Motorsport's Jeff Gordon who was just 0.178s off matching Harvick's time in the last round of qualifying but who was quick to concede that was a huge gap in the NASCAR scale of things.
"We didn't have anything for Kevin today, but what an incredible Axalta Chevy SS that we have this weekend," he said. "I got a little bit tight off to Turn 4 or we would have been a little bit closer to Kevin, but I'm still really proud of this effort. Qualifying second, qualifying is so huge here."
Brad Keselowski will line up in third place alongside Newman, but he admitted that Harvick was going to be a hard act to match on race day.
"It's always scary when Kevin is fast in qualifying," he said. "Kevin, when he qualifies well, you know he's gonna probably be a dominant car in the race and they have been really fast all year, so we're gonna have to work hard to beat him and obviously Jeff has been really fast, so we've been right there. We've got to keep working on it and I think we've got a chance of pulling off a victory here this weekend, so I'm very excited for it."
Brian Vickers takes fifth place alongside Stewart, while Kurt Busch - who ran this year's Indianapolis 500 in May - starts on row four alongside another man who drove in the Indy 500, Juan Pablo Montoya. Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne start from the row behind, with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch the final drivers to make it into the final top 12 shootout round of qualifying.
There was disappointment for the Roush Fenway Racing squad which saw all three of their drivers eliminated from qualifying in round 2. Carl Edwards will start from 18th just ahead of Greg Biffle in 19th while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start from 21st. Also eliminated in round two were Matt Kenseth (who starts from 13th alongside Danica Patrick), Kyle Larson (15th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (23rd).
Denny Hamlin was deeply disappointed to iss the Q1 cut and will line up in 27th place on the grid one row ahead of Paul Menard.
Richard Petty Motorsports' Aric Almirola will have to start from the back after hitting the wall during qualifying and being forced to the backup car for the race. He'll start just behind Bobby Labonte, who made the grid via a past champion's provisional entry. Failing to make the 43-car grid were Reed Sorenson, David Stremme and Matt Crafton.
See full Sprint Cup qualifying results from Indianapolis Motor Speedway