Kevin Harvick fastest since ’87 in NASCAR qualifying, takes Michigan pole

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJune 13, 2014 

— Kevin Harvick has been fast all season.

And then there is fast.

Harvick posted a track-record average-lap speed of 204.557 mph in the final round of Friday’s knockout qualifying to win the pole for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Harvick’s lap is the fastest qualifying lap recorded in NASCAR since Bill Elliott ran 212.809 mph in April 1987 at Talladega (Ala.) Superpspeedway, before NASCAR’s move to speed-reducing restrictor plates.

“The car has been really good since we unloaded off the truck, and we’ve had fast cars every week,” Harvick said. “This is a big race track and we have a fast car and it makes the driver’s job much easier.”

Harvick’s pole is his third this season – a statement for a driver who has started out front just nine times in his 14-year career.

“This format has been good for me,” he said. “Fast cars really solve a lot of problems.”

Series points leader Jeff Gordon qualified second, Dale Earnhardt Jr. third, Aric Almirola fourth and Paul Menard fifth.

Newman left behind

Drivers occasionally ride together on each others’ private planes to the track, and Ryan Newman had earlier in the week asked to catch a ride to Michigan with Earnhardt.

When Newman didn’t send a reminder on Thursday night that he was coming, Earnhardt forgot about him when he and his group departed Friday morning, leaving Newman stranded at the airport in Statesville.

“I didn’t know about it. I didn’t look at my calendar,” Earnhardt said. “When I got up this morning, I didn’t look at the clock. I just got in the shower and went downstairs and got in the car, drove to the airport and got in the plane, and I forgot about Ryan.

“He should have texted me last night. I think he got a ride. That was unfortunate, for sure. It happens.”

Newman said he was lucky to find someone else who had yet to leave for Michigan.

“That was probably as close as I’ve ever come to missing a practice,” he said.

Moffitt signs deal with MWR

Brett Moffitt, 21, who finished 22nd in his Cup series debut two weeks ago at Dover, Del., has signed a multiyear contract with Michael Waltrip Racing to drive a part-time schedule for the organization’s third Cup team.

“What we decided to do is put him in a contract without trying to nail down a schedule at first,” said Ty Norris, MWR’s executive vice president. “After this weekend we will probably try to run him at least three or four more times this year out of the MWR camp.

“Giving him the opportunity to drive against the best in the world will tell us where he is. You’ve seen a lot of young drivers come through – he’s as good as any of them.”

Larson to be a dad

Cup series rookie Kyle Larson, 21, is a new homeowner in the Charlotte area and on Friday said he was going to be a father. He said he and his girlfriend, Katelyn Sweet, are expecting a child in December.

“Me and Katelyn just found out we are having a baby, so it’s a really exciting time,” he said. “How good the racing has been going, a new house, all that and now that, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Sponsor extends with Hendrick

Farmers Insurance announced it would continue to sponsor at least 12 races a year on Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet through the 2017 season. That’s down from the 22 it currently sponsors.

Kahne’s current contract with HMS runs through the 2015 season.

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