KANSAS CITY, Kansas (AP) — Kevin Harvick turned the fastest lap in qualifying for Sunday's Chase for the Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway and will sit on the pole for the first time since the 2006 season.
Harvick, who is tied for fourth in points, negotiated brutal crosswinds entering Turn 3 that ruined several good qualifying runs to post a lap of 187.526 mph on Friday. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second-fastest at 187.480 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson with a lap of 187.162 mph.
Harvick was fastest in practice earlier in the day, and his first pole since Sept. 17, 2006, gives him the first pit stall for Sunday's race. That could prove especially important at a place where track position is of the utmost importance.
"When you win that few poles, you can remember what happened those particular days," Harvick said. "You know, throughout my career for whatever reason, we haven't qualified well, and we always seem to race better than we qualify."
It's just the sixth time in 460 races that Harvick has led the field to the green flag and ends a drought of 254 races without a pole. It's also the first pole for Richard Childress Racing since Clint Bowyer sat on the front in September 2007, also at New Hampshire.
"It's never been really something that honestly we put a lot of effort into to try to figure out what we needed to do," Harvick said. "We've always been able to work by not qualifying well and winning races. It's just kind of been that way."
It certainly helps to start from the front, though, especially this week at Kansas.
The track underwent a repave last year and, combined with the new "multi-zone" tread tire that Goodyear has brought this weekend, track position figures to be at a premium. Drivers are hopeful of two- and three-lane racing, but Stenhouse said that it will be difficult to pass.
"I think track position is going to be very important," he said. "We were fast here last time, led some laps and got caught by a caution on pit road."
Temperatures are expected to fall for the weekend, likely forcing everybody to retool their setups on Saturday. That could bode well for guys who will start father back in the field.
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start sixth, followed by Kenseth, Paul Menard, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin.
Kyle Busch, who is 12 points back of Kenseth in third, will start 18th.
Jeff Gordon (14th), Ryan Newman (17th) and Greg Biffle (26th) also struggled with qualifying.