Hopefully the NASCAR record books are written in pencil. For the 10th time this season, a driver smashed a track record en route to winning the pole. On this occasion, Kevin Harvick was the man of the moment.
He posted a top speed of 204.557 miles per hour, which not only set a record at the Michigan International Speedway but was also the quickest pole qualifying lap in 27 years, per NASCAR Stats:
New track record. Big one! Kevin Harvick: 204.557 mph. #NASCAR— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) June 13, 2014
According to Stewart-Haas Racing, that's also the fastest qualifying lap ever at a non-restrictor plate track:
Kevin Harvick's pole winning speed of 204.557 mph and 35.198 sec is the fastest qualifying lap ever recorded at a non-restrictor plate track— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) June 13, 2014
This is the third pole of the year for Harvick, which is already one more than his previous best:
Surprising stat of the day: This is Kevin Harvick's third pole. Coming into 2014, he never had more than 2 in a single season. #NASCAR— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) June 13, 2014
Here's what he said after qualifying, per FoxSports.com's Tom Jensen:
I think that is just a credit on our Budweiser and Stewart-Haas race team for putting fast race cars on the track.
When you put it together with the Hendrick Motorsports engine package it creates a lot of speed and it makes coming to these place a lot of fun. Really excited to start on the pole and get that first pit box and hopefully we can put the whole day together on Sunday.
With two wins already under his belt for 2014, Harvick enters the Quicken Loans 400 not needing to pick up the checkered flag. Those two victories all but put him in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at the end of the season.
Some other not so fortunate drivers will be looking to build off Friday's qualifying in order to solidify their place in the standings. You can view the full qualifying results on NASCAR.com.
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||203.729||35.341||0.143|
Aric Almirola is on the outside looking in on the Chase. He sits in 20th, 19 points off Greg Biffle and Austin Dillon, who are 15th and 16th.
The No. 43 car had a great run in qualifying, finishing fourth. It's Almirola's second-best showing this season after his third-place start at Darlington back in April. As you'd expect, he made sure to praise both his car and crew after his impressive run:
Almirola has finished outside the top 10 in each of his last three races. Perhaps not coincidentally, his average starting position has been 20th during that span.
With his good starting position, he has a great opportunity on Sunday to at the very least make up some ground on those ahead of him in the standings.
Another driver who's looking to make an impression in Michigan is Clint Bowyer. He wasn't so lucky during qualification, placing 15th.
Bowyer is just one spot away from the Chase, two points behind Biffle and Austin.
Although he's never won in Michigan, his recent results are trending upward. According to DriverAverages.com, he's finished in the top 10 in each of his last six races at the track.
A win would be huge for Bowyer, but if he can at least sneak into the top 16 in the points standings, it will be a job well done on Sunday.
Matt Kenseth might be in a Chase place for now, but he'll want to pick up a victory sooner or later as well. He has the most points (482) of any driver without a checkered flag in 2014. In order to qualify for the Chase, a driver will need at least one win, so Kenseth still has some work to do.
His mind might have been elsewhere on Friday, though. His crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, left practice to attend his cousin's funeral, per Fox Sports 1's Wendy Venturini. Although Ratcliff will be back later on Friday night, that will likely be weighing on him through the weekend:
Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, has left MIS after prac as planned. He has his cousin's funeral to attend in TN, will return tonight.— Wendy Venturini (@WendyVenturini) June 13, 2014
Kenseth didn't do himself any favors. Starting out in 21st, he'll have a tough time moving up the field.
Following Sunday's race, it's likely that every driver will continue looking up at Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the standings. The current leader posted the third-fastest qualifying time on Friday. Junior commended his crew on a job well done:
Man! This was the best Friday we've had in a while. NW car is solid. Cup car qualified well. More work to do tomorrow. Lookin forward to it.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) June 13, 2014
Earnhardt has conquered the Michigan International Speedway before, winning the Quicken Loans 400 in both 2008 and 2012. Between that and his strong qualifying performance, the No. 88 car will be one of the favorites on race day.