Daniel Hemric wins first-career pole for Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway

Daniel Hemric posted a 30.329-second/178.047 mph lap during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Kansas Speedway on Saturday to claim the pole for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the elimination race of the second round, or round of 12, of the playoffs. It’s his first-career Cup Series pole.

"t’s pretty special,” Hemric said. "I kind of just feel crazy. I got out of the car and I thought I’d be maybe fifth to eighth but, man, these guys on this Caterpillar Camaro ZL1 have done a great job all year of, no matter what’s thrown at us, kind of just rising to the occasion and showing back up at the race track every week ready to work. And with all that going on — there’s so much going on around us — that you can get lost in the distraction of things. But to know these guys have continued to have my back through all that stuff has meant the world to me. So congratulations to ECR [Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines] and RCR [Richard Childress Racing]. "They’ve been doing a great job for us all year. It’s cool to be the guy to steer it around the line there and get the quick time.”

David Ragan was the 39th and final driver to make a qualifying attempt and claimed the other front-row position on the starting grid.

“I hope we can be the fastest on Sunday, too,” After having the fastest Ford in qualifying. "We made adjustments on our Ford Mustang last night, anticipating a little warmer race on Sunday. We looked at the weather and we looked at what we did here in the spring, and so we really didn’t think much of qualifying. It is what it is on these impound races. I was surprised to see the speed that Michael [McDowell] had in his car. I was optimistic knowing our cars were pretty close. To be on the Front Row is awesome for the start of the race on Sunday. Hopefully, we can make some adjustments and be a top-10 or top-15 car on Sunday.”

Hemric went onto the track 16th in the qualifying order, and his lap, the only lap by any driver during the session over 178 mph, knocked Ragan’s Front Row Motorsports teammate Michael McDowell from the provisional pole position. McDowell had held the provisional top spot since going out second. By the end of qualifying, McDowell was sixth.

“We went out early and I don't know how that will stack up when it is all said and done, but that was a good solid lap,” McDowell said after his qualifying run. “The car was pretty good in race trim yesterday, and we feel really good about where we are at.”

Only three of the 12 playoff drivers qualified in the top-10, and they were in the top-five. Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski took second-row starting spots by qualifying third and fourth. Kyle Larson qualified fifth to share the third row with McDowell.

While 39 drivers made qualifying attempts, 40 entered. Playoff driver Kevin Harvick wasn’t allowed to make a qualifying attempt after his #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford after his car failed pre-qualifying inspection at least three times. As a result, he took the last spot on the grid. Other penalties for Harvick’s team include the ejection of car chief Robert Smith and a pit-road pass-through penalty after the start of the race.

“I have to pass a lot of cars,” Harvick said. “It is what it is at this point. You just go out and try to strategize and plan what you can and try to pass as many cars when you can at the beginning and go from there.”

The #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of playoff driver Martin Truex Jr. failed inspection twice, so car chief Blake Harris was ejected. But Truex was allowed to qualify and wound up 11th, the highest of any Toyota driver in qualifying.

“We are 11th, which is a lot better than we expected,” Truex said. “We have a good starting spot, probably better than we expected. Hopefully, that’s not a bad thing. Generally, we don’t run good unless we start like 20th, so I’m a little nervous.”

Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr. qualified seventh through 10th.