E.A. Sports Today

Pole men wear plaid

Kevin Harvick wins first Talladega pole in 13 years; Kurt Busch just misses his first super speedway pole

Kurt Busch came so close to winning his first super speedway pole, but he was nosed out by Kevin Harvick (cover) on the final run of qualifying. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – Kevin Harvick hasn’t been on the pole at Talladega Superspeedway in 13 years. Kurt Busch has never won a pole on a superspeedway.

Guess who are on the front row for Sunday’s Geico 500?

Harvick pushed his plaid/flannel-themed Ford to his first Talladega pole since May 2005 when he edged Stewart-Haas teammate Busch for the pole with a fast lap of 194.448 on the final run of qualifying. Busch qualified in 194.082, overtaking Martin Truex Jr. on the next-to-last run.


It was Harvick’s fourth pole in 69 combined super speedway Cup starts, first since 2010 and first at Talladega since May 1, 2005. He posted the day’s fastest lap despite issues with his rear tires and engine heating.

“We had no clue as to how fast the car would actually run,” Harvick said. “We knew we had a fast car, but we didn’t do any qualifying runs or anything like that. The first indicator we had was the first time on the race track and obviously that was even a little bit of a question because we had to change the tires and cool the engine down and go back out.

“We just didn’t know what the pick up in the car was going to be or not be. It’s always a little bit of a surprise … We really haven’t been close to a super speedway pole and I think that says a lot about the effort (the team) is putting into it.”

Busch seemed genuinely bummed he didn’t hold the pole. He has had 69 combined starts at Talladega and Daytona and never started higher than third at either track (February 2011 at Daytona, October 2010 at Talladega). He started fourth in last year’s fall race here.

“I’ve never been that close to a pole at a superspeedway in my 19 years and today I felt like we had a chance to get it,” Busch said. “So close, but the outside pole is cool.

“It was a bucket list item. I really wanted the pole today, but I got the outside pole, so not too bad. … It’s a great day to celebrate two Stewart-Haas cars on the front row. Today’s Kevin’s day; tomorrow’s going to be our day.”

The qualifying speeds were slower than the previous day’s practice after NASCAR announced an anticipated rule change designed to decrease speeds following Jamie McMurray’s spectacular crash Friday.

McMurray had just turned a lap of 203.975 when he barrel-rolled seven times down the track. Later in the day Brad Keselowski estimated McMurray was going 210 mph at the time of the crash. The 10 fastest times in practice were all over 200 mph.

In making the rule change, NASCAR reduced the size of the holes in the restrictor plates to 55/64ths of an inch, reducing approximately 12-15 mph and brings speeds under 200 mph.

Harvick said he couldn’t tell “much difference” between Friday’s practice and Saturday’s qualifying and doesn’t believe there will be much difference during Sunday’s race.

“I think tomorrow’s race will be about a patient race, it’ll be about the old-school mentality of protect your car and put yourself in position to win,” said Harvick, who will be chasing his fourth win of the season. “I don’t think that stage points are going to be the target for us. I think we want to go after the big trophy at the end of the day, and that’s going to come from a patient race.”

(Finish in parenthesis)
July 6, 2002 – Daytona (11)
May 1, 2005 – Talladega (12)
July 3, 2010 – Daytona (1)
April 28, 2018 – Talladega

To view an early photo gallery from Saturday’s action visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com


Row 1: Kevin Harvick (4) 194.448; Kurt Busch (41) 194.082.
Row 2: Martin Truex Jr. (78) 193.525; Denny Hamlin (11) 192.936.
Row 3: Chase Elliott (9) 192.754; Erik Jones (20) 192.730.
Row 4: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17); 191.904; Clint Bowyer (14) 191.723.
Row 5: Joey Logan (22) 191.643; Brad Keselowski (2) 191.344.
Row 6: Alex Bowman (88) 191.248; David Ragan (38) 191.088.
Row 7: Paul Menard (21) 191.486; Daniel Suarez (19) 191.478.
Row 8: Darrell Wallace Jr. (43) 191.313; Jimmie Johnson (48) 191.260.
Row 9: William Byron (24) 191.187; Ryan Newman (31) 191.111.
Row 10: Kyle Busch (18) 191.103; Michael McDowell (34) 190.993.
Row 11: Trevor Bayne (6) 190.985; Kyle Larson (42) 190.943.
Row 12: Ryan Blaney (12) 190.495; Austin Dillon (3) 190.140.
Row 13: Chris Buescher (37) 189.797; Kasey Kahne (95) 189.767.
Row 14: Jamie McMurray (1) 189.721; A.J. Almendinger (47) 189.714.
Row 15: Ty Dillon (13) 188.645; Brendan Gaughan (62) 188.630.
Row 16: D.J. Kennington (96) 187.232; Timothy Peters (92) 187.068.
Row 17: Matt DiBenedetto (32) 186.598; Joey Gase (00) 186.000.
Row 18: Ross Chastain (15) 185.711; Cole Whitt (72) 185.187.
Row 19: Gray Gaulding (23) 183.793; Reed Sorenson (55) 182.846.
Row 20: Timmy Hill (51) 181.891; Aric Almirola (10) 175.372.

Denny Hamlin will start on the outside of the second row in Sunday’s Geico 500.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login