Kevin Harvick edges Hamlin for Richmond Cup pole

That’s a good way for Kevin Harvick to rebound from a tough NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener.

Kevin Harvick edges Hamlin for Richmond Cup pole

Harvick saved his best in Friday’s knockout qualifying for last, posting the fastest average lap speed in the final session (121.880 mph) to claim the pole for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

Harvick, who leads the way in the series with seven wins, started the 2018 playoffs with a wreck and 39th-place finish last weekend at Las Vegas.

The pole is Harvick’s third this season and 24th of his career.

“We didn’t do any qualifying runs in practice,” Harvick said. “After we ended our last race run, huge credit to the race team for putting the qualifying set-up underneath it.

“Aric (Almirola) came here and tested and (we) kind of had a baseline for where we needed to shoot for, for targets and things like that.”

Asked about his qualifying performance that saw him no better than 11th through the first two rounds, Harvick said that was "part of the game here." 

"I think we made some good adjustments on making the car better and for me just getting more confidence in how fast I could let the car roll and stay in the throttle up off the corner," he said. "In the first round we didn’t really know what we had and ran a lap less than a lot of the faster guys.”

Denny Hamlin ended up second (121.847 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. was third (121.529 mph). Ryan Blaney was fourth and Daniel Suarez, who was fastest in the first two rounds, completed the top-five.

Rounding out the Top 12 starters are Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Cole Custer and Kyle Busch, who won the spring race at Richmond.

Round 2

Suarez kept up the pressure, again posting the fastest average lap speed in the second round (122.928 mph).

Blaney ended up second (122.316 mph) and Custer, making just his third series start this season, was third (122.045 mph). Truex and Keselowski completed the top-five.

Also advancing to the final round were Kurt Busch, Larson, Hamlin, Jones, Almirola, Harvick and Kyle Busch.

None of the four drivers from Hendrick Motorsports were able to move out of Round 2, with Alex Bowman topping the organization at 14th-fastest.

Also missing the cut were Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard.

Round 1

Suarez led the way in the first round of knockout qualifying as two playoff contenders failed to advance to Round 2.

Suarez posted the fastest average lap speed (122.912 mph) in the 15-minute session. Kurt Busch was second (122.895 mph) and Keselowski third (122.722 mph). Hamlin and Kenseth rounded out the top-five.

Also in the Top 10 were Jones, Elliott, Kyle Busch, McMurray and Almirola.

Busch made contact with the wall during his final qualifying lap attempt and his No. 18 Toyota appeared to suffer minor damage.

Clint Bowyer (25th) and Austin Dillon (28th) were only drivers in the playoffs who failed to advance to the second round.

Among the others who failed to advance were Darrell Wallace Jr., A.J. Allmendinger, David Ragan and Ty Dillon, who had been fast in Friday’s practice sessions.

Reigning NASCAR Euro champion Alon Day, making his first series start on an oval, was 37th fastest.


Take a virtual lap around Richmond Raceway, courtesy of NASCAR Heat 3, which you can order now:

Cla # Driver 4506 Time Gap Mph
1 4 United States Kevin Harvick  Ford 22.153   121.880
2 11 United States Denny Hamlin  Toyota 22.159 0.006 121.847
3 78 United States Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota 22.217 0.064 121.529
4 12 United States Ryan Blaney  Ford 22.241 0.088 121.397
5 19 Mexico Daniel Suarez  Toyota 22.244 0.091 121.381
6 41 United States Kurt Busch  Ford 22.267 0.114 121.256
7 10 United States Aric Almirola  Ford 22.320 0.167 120.968
8 2 United States Brad Keselowski  Ford 22.342 0.189 120.849
9 20 United States Erik Jones  Toyota 22.342 0.189 120.849
10 42 United States Kyle Larson  Chevrolet 22.347 0.194 120.822
11 51 United States Cole Custer  Ford 22.360 0.207 120.751
12 18 United States Kyle Busch  Toyota 22.390 0.237 120.590
13 22 United States Joey Logano  Ford 22.232 0.079 121.447
14 88 United States Alex Bowman  Chevrolet 22.236 0.083 121.425
15 1 United States Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet 22.241 0.088 121.397
16 17 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford 22.286 0.133 121.152
17 31 United States Ryan Newman  Chevrolet 22.297 0.144 121.093
18 6 United States Matt Kenseth  Ford 22.318 0.165 120.979
19 9 United States Chase Elliott  Chevrolet 22.332 0.179 120.903
20 24 United States William Byron  Chevrolet 22.354 0.201 120.784
21 21 United States Paul Menard  Ford 22.374 0.221 120.676
22 48 United States Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet 22.438 0.285 120.332
23 37 United States Chris Buescher  Chevrolet 22.439 0.286 120.326
24 34 United States Michael McDowell  Ford 22.678 0.525 119.058
25 14 United States Clint Bowyer  Ford 22.305 0.152 121.049
26 43 United States Darrell Wallace Jr.  Chevrolet 22.324 0.171 120.946
27 38 United States David Ragan  Ford 22.326 0.173 120.935
28 3 United States Austin Dillon  Chevrolet 22.348 0.195 120.816
29 32 United States Matt DiBenedetto  Ford 22.355 0.202 120.778
30 47 United States A.J. Allmendinger  Chevrolet 22.373 0.220 120.681
31 13 United States Ty Dillon  Chevrolet 22.407 0.254 120.498
32 15 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 22.416 0.263 120.450
33 95 United States Regan Smith  Chevrolet 22.448 0.295 120.278
34 72 United States Corey Lajoie  Chevrolet 22.578 0.425 119.585
35 96 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota 22.601 0.448 119.464
36 52 United States Gray Gaulding  Ford 22.932 0.779 117.739
37 23 Israel Alon Day  Toyota 22.954 0.801 117.627
38 00 United States Joey Gase  Chevrolet 22.960 0.807 117.596
39 99 United States Landon Cassill  Chevrolet 23.066 0.913 117.055
40 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 23.079 0.926 116.989
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