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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)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, races to a fourth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 as Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage (L) and John Godwin of Duck Commander (R) look on at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

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