DARLINGTON, S.C. — When Kevin Harvick won the second race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway, it appeared he had the team that could rattle off several wins.
He has had several cars capable of winning but has had a string of problems over the past five races, including an oil bump belt getting knocked off that cooked the engine, an oil line puncture from debris and a strange broken wheel hub that ruined his brakes.
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Harvick has had finishes of 36th, 39th, 41st and 42nd this year, relegating him to 26th in the standings. Thanks to the win at Phoenix, though, he’s fairly certain he’ll make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
So maybe that’s why he seemed so relaxed even before he won the pole Friday to lead the field Saturday to the green flag for the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
“The cars are running really good — the guys are doing what they’re supposed to do,” Harvick said. “We’ve been fast every week, and you just have to battle through it.
“There’s nothing that you can change about it. If we were in the previous points format, you would probably be in a whole lot worse mood about it. Since we’ve already won and obviously feel like we’ve given away some wins with failures, but you keep going about your business.”
Harvick got a little bit of help from two former racers to post the top speed in qualifying. He used the suggestion of co-owner Tony Stewart and spotter Tim Fedewa to run a higher line, a line that resulted in the top speed in the final session.
It was just Harvick’s seventh career pole in 474 career starts, and his first since joining Stewart-Haas Racing this season.
“(My crewmen have) dealt with a lot of adversity over the weeks, and I think it just shows that they’ve kept their focus and done what they’ve had to do to keep putting good race cars on the track,” Harvick said.
“So, you know when they qualify that good — I’m not the world’s greatest qualifier — that the car is pretty good. … Today is good medicine for everybody and proof that everybody just works week to week on what they need to work on, and last week is over.”
Harvick, with a lap of 183.479 mph, will have Joey Logano (183.049 mph) on the front row beside him. Aric Almirola, who set the track qualifying record with a speed of 184.145 mph in the second round, will start third.
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