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NASCAR Sprint Cup Bristol: Harvick on pole for night race

Kevin Harvick claimed his fifth pole position of the season after topping qualifying for Saturday night's Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
CLICK: Full qualifying session results from Bristol Motor Speedway

Kevin Harvick will start on pole position for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, after setting a lap of 14.607s (131.362mph) on the half-mile short oval, a new track qualifying record.

The IRWIN Tools Night Race is Harvick's fifth pole of the year following on from Darlington, Kansas, Michigan and Indianapolis, and is his 11th pole position in 490 Cup starts. It's the first time that he will have start from the front at Bristol in 28 appearances at the venue.

“It feels great," he beamed. "Just have to thank everybody on our Jimmy John's team for really everything they do every week for qualifying and race cars that they bring to the race track are just incredibly fast. They have helped improve my qualifying record a tremendous amount, today was no different.”

Having taken pole position, Harvick was now optimistic about carrying over Friday's form into the race under the floodlights on Saturday night

"Track position is definitely as important as it is anywhere here with the current groove and where you are running," said the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. "I felt good about our car during practice and just have to stay in there all night and do the best we can."

Harvick's time was only eight thousandths of a second faster than Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon, who had earlier topped the first of the evening's two rounds of qualifying and had been looking on course for his third consecutive pole position after having previously succeeded in taking the top spots at Watkins Glen and Michigan.

"Gosh, I'm still excited," said Gordon. "We are just so thrilled to get a front row start here at Bristol. That means a lot. I know it wasn't a pole - Kevin put up a great lap.

"I thought I had a really good lap that first run out," he continued. "I came on the radio and I said 'that is all I got.' When you go do that and the car is well balanced and you get a good lap you know that it's up to somebody else to just take a little more risk and maybe get it and Kevin did. Hats off to them and another great start to a weekend for this team.

"To go to Watkins Glen, Michigan and then back to Bristol and be this competitive is just a real testament to how great this team is, and that #24 Chevrolet.

Behind Harvick and Gordon, row two will be taken up by Roush Fenway Racing's outgoing driver Carl Edwards and his future Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Kyle Busch.

"This is a really fun race track, had a lot of fun in the spring and hopefully this starting spot helps us work towards our goal of winning another race here," said Edwards. "I don't know what it looks like, but, man, it is screaming fast in there. I don't know how my first lap out there was any good because I didn't quite even know where I was there and got everything gathered up and it was decent, so it's just a crazy race track."

Busch meanwhile was still unhappy with his pace: "It's not great. It's not where I want it to be yet. It doesn't show the speed that some other guys are able to post here. I don't know if everybody is driving as hard as I'm driving, but that's all I got — that's all she's got. Anything else and I'm going to be in the wall. It's tough with having to run high like that and so close to the edge and so close to out of control and going so fast around this place."

On the third row, Penske's Joey Logano continued his impressive record of getting through to the final round of qualifying by capturing fifth place on the grid alongside Hendrick's Jimmie Johnson.

"I'm okay with it," said Logano of his grid position. "I wish I was fourth because fifth isn't where you want to be, but it's just so fast out there. I've been a little lost today because there's so much grip and what I need in my race car has just been different from what I typically need at Bristol, so I'm just trying to figure it out.

"I feel like I'm a rookie again trying to figure out what the heck I need in the race car to go fast," he added. "But, overall, for being as lost as I am we're fifth so it's not that bad. My team isn't lost - they're making good changes and making my car faster."

"It's not bad at all," added Johnson of his own efforts. "We usually struggle a lot on Friday and then qualifying is normally difficult. We had a great practice session, great qualifying effort. Of course we want to be better, but I think my strength is racing and come race time we are going to be in a lot better shape."

Kurt Busch (SHR) and Greg Biffle (RFR) line-up together on the fourth row, with the second Penske car of Brad Keselowski on the row immediately behind them alongside Richard Petty Motorsport's Marcos Ambrose.

"It's a great day," said the Australian. "There were a lot of great names in that final 12, so I'm just pleased I was in there to mix it up with them. We did a lot of laps to make it to the final 12, which hurt our performance in the run home, but we'll take our day."

Also making it through to the final round were Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing) and Kasey Kahne (HMS). Narrowly failing to progress from the first round of qualifying were Denny Hamlin (JGR) and Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing).

Having topped the final practice session before qualifying, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - who finished second in this event in 2013 - failed to progress to the top 12 shoot-out after finding himself stuck in technical scrutineering for almost 20 minutes of the 30-minute qualifying round 1.

With 43 cars entered in this weekend's race, everyone made it onto the grid. However, four drivers had accidents in qualifying and will have their work cut out for them, with Kyle Larson making an early impact against the wall in the Chip Ganassi Racing #42 just minutes into qualifying, and although he was later able to come back out and set a time he's still facing a back row start tomorrow night.

"I definitely was over the edge," Larson conceded. "It's frustrating because we had a really, really good Target Chevy in practice with definitely top five speeds. Now I don't know what we have.

"I just got loose through the corner and thought I could save it, and probably should have just bailed," he added. "We got the wall and are probably going to a back-up car, so it sucks. Normally we would have practice the next day, but on Saturday night races we don't so we kind of have to guess on everything and hope it's good."

Cole Whitt spun out during his lap and smacking the wall with both the front and rear of the #26, while a cut tyre sent Casey Mears into the wall soon after. Aric Almirola also tapped the wall during the first round and failed to set a timed lap in the session as a result.

"I screwed up and that's all there is to it," admitted Almirola. "We have probably the best race car I've ever had at Bristol and I screwed up and hit the fence."

See full qualifying session results from Bristol Motor Speedway



Related Pictures

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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with his wife DeLana, son Keelan, and the pole award after qualifying fastest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, poses with the pole award after qualifying fastest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying first for the NASCAR Nationwide Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS qualified for eleventh position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Earnhardt, Jr. is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS qualified for sixth position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Johnson is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet SS qualified for third position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Harvick is in the Chase which continues with the Challenger 16 for this and next week`s race. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Belkin/Wemo Chevrolet SS qualified for second position September 19, 2014 for Sunday`s Chase Challenger 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates setting the pole position during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, speaks at a press conference following practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, smiles at Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Designate a Driver Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, prepares for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 19, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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