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NASCAR: Kevin Harvick adds another first, pole at Bristol

NASCAR Bristol Auto Racing
Wade Payne - AP
Kevin Harvick reaches for his 2-year-old son, Keelan, after setting a new track record during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, in Bristol, Tenn. Harvick won the pole.

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Harvick adds another first, pole at Bristol

Bristol Motor Speedway hasn’t been one of Kevin Harvick’s favorite tracks in recent seasons. That may have changed.

Harvick was second-fastest in Friday’s first round of qualifying and was fastest in the final round with a track record average lap speed of 131.362 mph to win the pole for Saturday night’s Irwin Night Race.

The pole is Harvick’s first at Bristol and the 11th of his career. His five poles this season is a career-high.

“It feels great. Just have to thank everybody on our team for really everything they do every week for qualifying and the race cars that they bring to the race track are just incredibly fast,” said Harvick, who hasn’t finished better than 11th at the track since spring 2011.

“They have helped improve my qualifying record a tremendous amount. Today was no different.”

Series points leader Jeff Gordon was second, Carl Edwards was third, Kyle Busch was fourth and Joey Logano was fifth.


Notebook

Biffle picks up new sponsor: Roush Fenway Racing announced that Ortho and its line of home, lawn and garden pest control products will serve as the anchor partner on Greg Biffle’s Cup team in a multi-year deal.

Ortho will make its debut on Biffle’s car next weekend at Atlanta and will appear on the car for two more races this season. Beginning next season, Ortho will sponsor Biffle for approximately half the season.

Biffle’s current sponsor, 3M, is leaving Roush and headed to Hendrick Motorsports next season to sponsor driver Jeff Gordon.

Testing time: On Monday and Tuesday, five Cup teams will test at Chicagoland Speedway, site of the first race in the Chase. Team participating are Stewart-Haas Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Hendrick Motorsports will test at Martinsville, Va., which hosts the seventh race in the Chase – and first in the third round.

Penalties ahead?:The trucks of race winner Brad Keselowski, Ron Hornaday and Cole Custer were discovered to have rear spoilers that were too high following Thursday’s rain-delayed Truck race at Bristol. Any penalties from NASCAR will be announced early next week.


Three things to watch

1 Carl Edwards could join the “three wins club” if he can win Saturday night at Bristol and repeat his victory from earlier this season in March.

2 One year ago Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne dueled over the final 20 laps in this race before Kenseth came away with the win. Both drivers are still looking for their first win of the 2014 season.

3 Kevin Harvick needs to lead 101 more laps to surpass 1,000 laps led for the season – which would be a first in his career.


Observations

•  It seems like the sponsor news in NASCAR of late is taking a more positive overall turn. The news on that front seemed dominated for a while with stories of cutbacks and sponsors electing not to return, but the past week has been filled with solid news on teams’ efforts to improve their financial bottom line. Joe Gibbs Racing’s addition of Arris is one of the largest investments from a new sponsor to the sports in years. Roush Fenway Racing announced the return of Ortho, which had sponsored its Nationwide programs in the past, in an increased role as a sponsor for one of its Cup team. This weekend, Leavine Family Racing debuted the addition of Thrivent Financial, a Fortune 500 company making its first venture into NASCAR.

•  If fewer spots in the Chase are determined by points than previous seasons – which was 10 of 12 previously – that means points mean less this season no matter how you cut it. The bottom line is points only matter if a driver has no wins. Points may mean more at this moment to the people not locked in the Chase, but they mean nothing to a winless driver as soon as he or she enters Victory Lane.

•  This season, Jeff Gordon is tied for the series lead in top 10 finishes (16), and he’s well on his way to surpassing last year’s numbers. This year: three wins, eight top-five and 16 top 10s in 23 races so far. Last year (in 36 races): one win, eight top-five and 17 top 10 finishes.


Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth

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