Everyone knew speeds would be exceedingly fast in Sprint Cup qualifying at Michigan International Speedway, the only question was just how fast.
That answer came in the form of Kevin Harvick posting the quickest time in 27 years Friday. Harvick's lap of 204.557 miles per hour gave him the pole for Sunday's Quicken Loans 400, and was the fastest speed in NASCAR history a non-restrictor-plate track.
The all-time single-lap record is 212.809 mph at Talladega Superspeedway in 1987 -- the race before NASCAR mandated restrictor-plates at Talladega and its sister track, Daytona International Speedway.
"You just have to relax and really pay attention to not overdrive it because it's so easy to miss your line on the entry to the corner," Harvick said.
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The pole was Harvick's third of 2014 and the ninth of his career. He is in his first season driving for Stewart-Haas Racing after 13 years with Richard Childress Racing.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified second and third, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the top three positions at the two-mile oval that was recently repaved. Harvick, Gordon and Earnhardt are all powered by Hendrick-built engines.
Aric Almirola and Paul Menard completed the top-five qualifiers.
"You've got to take your hat off to Harvick and those guys," Gordon said. "They are just superfast, especially when it comes to qualifying. We gave it a great effort but not quite enough to get those guys."
Gordon enters Michigan as the series points leader, while Earnhardt is coming off a win last week at Pocono Raceway. Earnhardt, with two career victories at Michigan, has never won consecutive races in his career.
"We're making some good gains on how we need to adjust the car to find the balance we need as continue to cycle the tires each qualifying run," Earnhardt said. "That is something we really needed to improve our qualifying efforts. The car has real good speed. The car is pretty comfortable."
Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will start six through 12.
Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch, who were involved in a wreck at Pocono, qualified 13th and 14th, respectively. They will share Row 7 Sunday.
Rookie Ryan Truex was the only driver who failed to qualify.
Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan starting lineup
|3||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||203.729|
|16||Martin Truex, Jr.||Chevrolet||200.820|
|28||Juan Pablo Montoya||Ford||200.217|
|30||Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.||Ford||199.750|