Harvick puts ‘Freaky Fast’ Ford on Atlanta pole

Kyle Magda
March 4, 2017

HAMPTON, Ga.—With the sun going down and the lights coming on at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion got faster during qualifying.

Harvick put down a lap of 29.118 seconds (190.398 mph) to score the pole for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Sunday Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 2014 Atlanta pole-sitter turned the fastest time of the day in the final round of Coors Light Pole Qualifying.

“We spent a lot of time in race trim because we don't really know this package with the Fords ... so it's been a process, learning how we needed to balance the car,” Harvick said. “We ran a couple sets of tires in race trim and just threw our qualifying package in right at the end of practice, and we were way too tight ... but we found what we needed to when it counted tonight.”

Harvick wins the first SHR pole under the Ford banner since the team transitioned to the Blue Oval-brigade in the off-season.

“This pole is just a credit to everyone at Stewart Haas Racing,” Harvick added. “From winning the Daytona 500 last weekend with the 41 [Kurt Busch] ... to come here and see the progress we've made over the course of the day so far is fantastic. It's really hard to explain how big of a transition this has been for the whole company, but (being fast) is what it's all about and this pole is for all of them."

Kyle Busch paced the first session in his No. 18 Snickers Crisper Toyota at 190.280 mph. Ryan Newman stayed consistently fast throughout the three rounds slotting in no worse than second the Richard Childress Racing machine.

“I’m just proud of everybody at RCR and ECR with this Caterpillar Chevrolet,” Newman said. “We were so close. 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. It was a good start for sure.”

Newman was fastest in the second round after leading Friday’s only Cup practice in the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet.

Ky. Busch ended up third at 189.850 mph as the fastest Toyota. Three Toyotas made round three of qualifying including his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin and Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex Jr.

Clint Bowyer and previous Atlanta winner Kasey Kahne start 25th and 29th on Sunday, respectively. Austin Dillon knocked off Bowyer in the final minute to get back into the top-24.

Five drivers didn’t post a qualifying time due to trouble in inspection. Jeffrey Earnhardt, Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt, Derrike Cope and Cody Ware were unable to get on track in the first round, setting positions 35 through 39 on last year’s owner points.

Ware will make his Cup debut Sunday after failing to qualify for last June’s Sonoma race.

Additionally, Cope’s start this weekend marks the first time the 1990 Daytona 500 winner will compete in a Cup event in eight years.

Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts
Where will Harvick finish Sunday?