Kevin Harvick wins the pole at Indy
Kevin Harvick has been in this position before and hopes he is again on Sunday.
Harvick posted the fastest average speed in all three rounds of Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series qualifying session to earn the pole for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Harvick also started from the pole when he earned his first win at the Brickyard in 2003.
“After the first lap, I was probably more nervous than I’ve been in a while in qualifying. It’s great to have fast cars,” said Harvick, who now has four poles this season and 10 in his career.
“Being able to come to the race track like that is a burden off everybody’s shoulders. I feel like our race stuff is in the ballpark, too.”
Harvick set a track qualifying record with his lap at 188.889 mph in the first round.
Series points leader Jeff Gordon qualified second, Brad Keselowski was third, Ryan Newman was fourth and Brian Vickers fifth.
Ideas discussed for Earnhardt’s crew chief: Ideas of who will serve as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s crew chief in the Cup series next season are being talked about, but that is about as far as it’s gotten, the driver said.
“Everybody is talking a little bit. We haven’t really sat down in a room and got down to a real serious discussion about it,” he said. “But I think that the people involved in the decision making have some great ideas, and the conversations are starting to happen, so we’ll see how that sort of works itself out.”
Earnhardt’s current crew chief, Steve Letarte, is moving to NBC’s broadcast booth next season.
Other race winners: Cup driver Kyle Busch won a 100-lap ARCA/CRA Super Series race Friday night with a last-lap pass of John Hunter Nemechek at Lucas Oil Raceway in nearby Clermont, Ind.
Brandon Jones won his second Automobile Racing Club of America race in as many starts this season, holding off Austin Wayne Self Friday night for the victory at LOR. Jones, 17, is a development driver for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Practice update: Early-morning rain cut short Saturday’s final Cup series practice session, but Jimmie Johnson led the way with an average lap speed of 189.298 mph.
Brad Keselowski was second-fastest, Kevin Harvick third, Jeff Gordon fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth. Johnson, Harvick and Gordon have all won at the Brickyard previously.
Three things to watch
1. Of the 20 Cup races held at the Brickyard, 15 have been won by past, future or reigning series champions.
2. Over the past seven races, Brad Keselowski has earned two wins, two runner-up finishes and a third and locked himself into this year’s Chase.
3. Jeff Gordon, who drives the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, needs to lead 91 more laps to reach 24,000 led in his Cup career.
• Whether it’s 300,000 fans who show up to watch NASCAR at Indianapolis Motor Speedway or 100,000 or even less really doesn’t detract from the meaning to drivers of racing at the historic track. The speedway’s history and traditions remain intact regardless of whether its grandstands are full, covered with a tarp or some seats are even removed. Times change and fans’ attitudes and expectations change. What doesn’t is the speedway’s history and how each individual driver views it and the meaning it has to him or her. Sometimes when lots of people don’t show up it doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth watching, it may mean they just missed out.
• Speaking of meaning, how cool would it be for Indiana native Tony Stewart to earn his first victory of the season at the Brickyard and essentially lock himself into the Chase? While Stewart was never cable to conquer the track during his stint in IndyCar, he has two victories at Indy in the Cup series – neither of which I doubt he would trade for anything.
• While the $100,000 bonus available for Nationwide Series regulars in four races during the summer is certainly much-appreciated by the drivers and their teams, a small change could be made that would have a much more impressive impact on the series’ entire season. Perhaps when the series gets a new sponsor next season, the program could be altered to provide a points-bonus to the driver rather than a monetary one. Think of how that could completely alter the championship landscape of that series.
Three picks for your fantasy racing team:
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman