With his car late getting through technical inspection, Kevin Harvick didn't even know if he was going to make it on the track for qualifying Friday at Darlington Raceway.
NASCAR officials eventually cleared the No. 4 Chevrolet, and Harvick made the most of his opportunity winning the pole-position for Saturday's Southern 500.
Not regarded as an ace qualifier, Harvick's speed of 183.479 mph bettered that of second-place Joey Logano (183.049 mph). Darlington was just the seventh pole in 474 career starts for Harvick and just his second in the previous eight years. Logano, who won Monday at Texas Motor Speedway, continued his streak of advancing to the final group of every qualifying session this year.
"I'm not the world's greatest qualifier, so you know when I qualify that good that the car is pretty good," Harvick said.
Teammates Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose continued Richard Petty Motorsports' early-season upswing by qualifying third and fourth, respectively. Almirola (184.145) eclipsed Kurt Busch's year-old track record in Round 2, but couldn't backup the time in the third and final session.
Brad Keselowski starts fifth, the sixth time in eight races he has qualified fifth or better this season. Rounding out the remainder of the top-10: Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, series points leader Jeff Gordon, and Denny Hamlin.
The big surprise was who did not make it out of the opening round, as neither Matt Kenseth nor Jimmie Johnson advanced. Kenseth, who won the Southern 500 a year ago, posted the 25th-fastest time, while Johnson will start 26th. Both enter the weekend looking for their first victory of 2014.
"I'm just disappointed we didn't get a better lap," Johnson said. "We've been working hard to get speed in the car today and have just been a little short on that."
David Reuitmann was the only driver who failed to qualify.
Bojangle's Southern 500 starting lineup
|12||Martin Truex Jr||Chevrolet||181.200|
|15||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Chevrolet||181.689|
|28||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Ford||181.394|