Harvick wins Atlanta pole to continue Stewart-Haas surge
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Just five days after teammate Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500, Kevin Harvick kept the momentum squarely in the Stewart-Haas Racing corner Friday, capturing the pole for Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick saved his best for last in knockout qualifying, running his fastest lap in the third and final round. The No. 4 Jimmy John's Ford Fusion rocketed around the 1.54-mile oval in 29.118 seconds at 190 mph to top Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman for the top spot.
Visibility was a factor during qualifying, as the first round started at 5:45 p.m. A number of drivers voiced concerns about the sun setting at the entry of the first turn, including Harvick, who said he could actually see his marks in the final round.
"That was the best our car had been," Harvick said. "For me, it was the most comfortable I had been because I could see where I was going down into Turn 1 with the sun down behind the billboards."
Harvick's pole is the 18th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career and second at AMS. In 2014, Harvick led 195 laps from the pole before getting caught up in a late-race accident that relegated him to a 19th-place finish. Since joining SHR in 2014, Harvick has led at least 116 laps in three Atlanta Motor Speedway starts.
Outside pole-sitter Ryan Newman was fastest in the second round of qualifying. Newman, who is tied with Buddy Baker for the most poles at AMS with seven, was the only Richard Childress Racing driver to reach the final round of Friday's qualifying.
"We were so close," Newman said. "I really wanted to beat my old buddy Buddy Baker's record there. Been tied with him for a while, so that was kind of rough. But I'm just proud of the guys and proud of the effort. It is the litmus test for us for a lot of the rest of the season."
Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five for Sunday's race.