Kevin Harvick may be out of the Chase, but that doesn't mean his season is over, and it certainly doesn't mean he doesn't like playing the role of the spoiler on the Championship 4 party.
Harvick rocketed to his second pole position of the season on Friday evening, taking the top spot in qualifying for Sunday's season-finale Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – the final race in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Posting a lap of 177.637 mph in the third and final round of knockout qualifying, Harvick collected his first-career Homestead pole and his career-best start at the 1.5-mile facility.
Brad Keselowski was second at 177.538mph, followed by Ryan Newman (177.387), Denny Hamlin (177.194) and rookie Chase Elliott (177.096).
Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup Champion, was eliminated from title contention following last weekend's race at Phoenix, but there's no giving up in Harvick or his team – they're here to finish out strong with a victory, especially if it means getting one more win for car co-owner Tony Stewart in his final Sprint Cup race.
"That's awesome," said Harvick. "I didn't know if we had a chance at the pole with as fast as the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) had been. But I knew if we could just run the same speed every round, that is half the battle because you never know how much it is going to slow down for everybody else, and it doesn't take much to make a mistake.
"Obviously there's not as much pressure coming into the weekend as there normally would be, and a lot less to do, so that's a good thing. So yeah, it would be nice to win a race and close the season out. Just a lot of reasons, Tony's last race, last race with Chevrolet. So yeah, came here to try to win, same as everybody else. No participation trophies."
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"] The final four Chase contenders struggled a bit in qualifying, with only two of the four making it to the final round while Johnson almost failed to make it out of the third round for the first time this season.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards both managed to make it out of the second round, but were nowhere near quick enough for the pole – qualifying ninth and tenth, respectively, but tops among the four championship contenders.
Chase driver Joey Logano just missed the cutoff to advance to the final round, and will start in 13th, one position ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who suffered through a terrible performance in the first round.
Johnson – vying for a record-setting seventh Sprint Cup title on Sunday, struggled to find any speed on Friday night and barely made it out of the opening round after qualifying 28th before making a second attempt and moving up to 22nd.
Johnson fared a little better in the second round but still fell short of advancing, marking his worst start at Homestead since he started 30th in 2008.
"What is a championship race without a little drama?" Johnson said. "Unfortunately, that first outing we just didn't get a good lap. Then I was on a great lap and the caution came out so we ended up with an additional lap on our tires. We had a nice pick up there for five or six laps on our tires, whatever it was and ended up 14th. A bit unlucky and we kind of hurt ourselves that opening run and I think to end up 14th on the age of those tires is respectable.
"Qualifying isn't my strong suit, I'm much better at racing, so let's line them up and go racing."
Three-time Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart, making his final Sprint Cup start, qualified 11th.
|1||4||Kevin Harvick||Chevy||Jimmy John's||177.637||30.399||Leader|
|2||2||Brad Keselowski||Ford||Miller Lite||177.538||30.416||–0.017|
|4||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Express||177.194||30.475||–0.076|
|5||24||Chase Elliott||Chevy||NAPA Auto Parts||177.096||30.492||–0.093|
|6||78||Martin Truex Jr||Toyota||Bass Pro Shops||176.974||30.513||–0.114|
|7||20||Matt Kenseth||Toyota||DeWalt Flexvolt||176.505||30.594||–0.195|
|9||18||Kyle Busch||Toyota||M&M's Core||175.959||30.689||–0.290|
|11||14||Tony Stewart||Chevy||Always a Racer / Mobil 1||174.978||30.861||–0.462|
|13||22||Joey Logano||Ford||Shell Pennzoil||176.638||30.571||–0.172|
|16||41||Kurt Busch||Chevy||Haas Automation||176.246||30.639||–0.240|
|17||3||Austin Dillon||Chevy||Dow Corning||176.120||30.661||–0.262|
|18||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Ford||Fastenal||175.965||30.688||–0.289|
|21||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||Roush Performance||175.018||30.854||–0.455|
|26||59||Michael McDowell||Chevy||Thrivent Financial||174.972||30.862||–0.463|
|27||34||Chris Buescher||Ford||Love’s Travel Stops||174.967||30.863||–0.464|
|29||5||Kasey Kahne||Chevy||Great Clips||174.695||30.911||–0.512|
|31||49||Matt DiBenedetto||Toyota||NASCAR Heat Evolution||174.306||30.980||–0.581|
|32||38||Landon Cassill||Ford||Florida Lottery||174.025||31.030||–0.631|
|33||15||Clint Bowyer||Chevy||5-Hour Energy||173.952||31.043||–0.644|
|35||7||Regan Smith||Chevy||Nikko RC / Toy State||173.706||31.087||–0.688|
|36||23||David Ragan||Toyota||Dr. Pepper||172.529||31.299||–0.900|
|40||46||Michael Annett||Chevy||Pilot Flying J||165.853||32.559||–2.160|
[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]