Among the leaders in several major statistical categories, Kevin Harvick has been superb in most areas this season -- with the exception of qualifying. The 2014 Sprint Cup changed that Thursday night, capturing the pole for Saturday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Harvick's lap of 196.029 mph edged Alex Bowman (196.000 mph) to win his first pole since March 2015 at Phoenix International Raceway, and first in 32 attempts at Charlotte, a track where's he won three times.
"We haven't had the speed that we've needed on qualifying day really, all year," Harvick said. "This is the first time it's just fired off like it did today and run fast and had the speed that we needed."
Bowman's second-place place effort represented a career-best. The 23-year-old is substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is out for remainder of the season recovering from a concussion, and hoping to use the opportunity to secure a full-time ride.
"There are not really any rides open next year, so this maybe these however many races left we have maybe the rest of my Cup career," Bowman said. "You never really know what the future holds."
Chase Elliott qualified third, followed by Kyle Busch in fourth, Tony Stewart fifth, A.J. Allmendinger sixth, Martin Truex Jr. seventh, Carl Edwards eighth, Denny Hamlin ninth, and Joey Logano 10th.
Charlotte is the first race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup quarterfinal round. A win Saturday by one of the 12 Chase drivers would automatically advance them to the semifinal round, which carries added importance with the Round 2 elimination race at the foreboding Talladega Superspeedway.
"I think everybody has the same goal to try to win one of these two races to eliminate that possibility," Harvick said. "But really, any of these races can jump up and bite you at really any particular time just because of the fact that you just never know.
"Obviously, Talladega has the most things out of your control. So if you can get to Victory Lane it's a huge benefit in this first round in the next two weeks."
Matt Kenseth (qualified 17th), Austin Dillon (19th), Brad Keselowski (20th), and Kurt Busch (23rd) were the only Chase drivers failing to transfer to the final segment of the three-round qualifying session.
"We just lacked a little bit of speed in qualifying trim, but the race trim stuff we did today I felt we were really, really fast, so that was encouraging," Keselowski said. "You want to qualify and race good, but it's more important to race good."
BANK OF AMERICA 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS
|7||Martin Truex Jr||194.826|
|15||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||193.966|