Kevin Harvick on pole for Gander RV 400 at Pocono Raceway
Kevin Harvick was fastest in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying Saturday at Pocono Raceway. His 51.707-second/174.058 mph lap was the only lap over 174 mph Saturday, through two practice sessions and the 38-car qualifying session, giving Harvick the pole for Sunday’s Gander RV 400. It's his fourth pole of the season but the first of his career at Pocono.
"We scrambled today in practice and never even made a qualifying run in practice, so we worked on our race stuff as long as we could and never really felt like we got it 100 percent right,” Harvick said. "We weren’t bad, but I think as you look at that, our car was pretty good after about lap six, and I think as you get into the race tomorrow, there’s gonna be a lot of two-tire strategy and a lot of green flag strategy. There’s gonna be a lot of unique times that you pit, so keeping yourself inside that time limit of that pit window is important to try to fulfill that strategy and keep yourself up front. We’ll see. I think as you look at the things that track position has meant this year, I think obviously having that tomorrow will be very important.”
Harvick went out late in the qualifying session, 35th, knocking Joey Logano from the provisional pole. Logano remained in second through the final cars’ attempts to start alongside Harvick on the front row.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola qualified third to give Ford a top-three sweep.
“We made a lot of changes from practice,” Almirola said. "We weren’t really happy with how we ended practice, so made a lot of changes there, and I felt like we made it a lot better. We’ll see. I’m looking forward to the race.”
Austin Dillon was on the provisional pole early in the qualifying session, going out 14th and taking William Byron’s spot atop the scoring pylon when he was the first driver to post a lap faster than any of the laps turned in qualifying.
“That was a heck of a lap for this team,” Dillon said. “I’m really proud of our Freightliner Chevy and all of our guys. This American Ethanol team has done a lot throughout the last two practices. I was not too happy; I was getting after it on the radio during the practices. They gave me what I needed right there, and that was a heck of a lap. I tried to put all three corners together the best I could, and it came together well for a shot at this pole. There are some really fast cars still to go, but I think that’s a good lap.”
Almirola was the first of four drivers in qualifying to post a lap surpassing the 173 mph mark. He spent time on the provisional pole, replacing Dillon at the top. By the end of qualifying, Dillon was shuffled back to fifth.
Dillon's car failed inspection Sunday morning, though, so his qualifying time was disallowed, resulting in a starting space in the back of the starting grid. Byron suffered the same fate after winding up eighth in the Saturday qualifying session.
Erik Jones qualified fourth.
"We have had good speed,” Jones said. "The Reser’s Camry has been fast. I thought with that lap, we would have it. That’s kind of frustrating. We have a fast car, and I thought we had a shot at the pole. It’s kind of frustrating, but we are starting up front either way, so we will make a good day of it. We were good in race trim, and I was pretty happy with it. That’s always a good feeling.”
Almirola held the provisional spot until replacement by Logano.
Dillon and Byron's cars were two of three in the top-10 of Saturday's qualifying session to have their qualifying times scratched because of failed inspections. The other was the #48 of Jimmie Johnson, who was sixth in qualifying. Dillon and Johnson's inspection failures moved Kyle Busch from seventh into a top-five spot on the race starting grid.
With inspections completed, other drivers in the top-10 for the start of Sunday's race include Kurt Busch in sixth, Daniel Suarez seventh, Martin Truex Jr. in eighth, Denny Hamlin ninth and Matt DiBenedetto in 10th.
In all, nine cars failed inspection Sunday morning. Other failing cars included those of Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain and Reed Sorenson. Dillon's car failed a second time through inspection, so he also had a crew member ejected from the garage and pit areas. His car passed its third inspection. The other eight cars passed their second times through inspection.
The nine cars failing inspection will start between 30th and 38th on the 38-car starting grid, ordered by car owner points. Blaney will start 30th, Byron 31st and Johnson 32nd.