By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
TALLADEGA, Alabama – Stewart-Haas Racing has served notice that they will be contenders when it comes to Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega after teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch laid down the fastest times in qualifying to secure the front row.
Harvick was fastest in the first round and backed it up in the final round with a lap of 49.247 seconds, 194.448 mph to put his Ford at the top of the board.
The fast laps weren’t without issue though as Harvick had started his qualifying run in the first round, but had to abort after caution came out when fellow SHR driver Aric Almirola spun and Harvick hit some debris out on track.
After quick repairs from his team, Harvick returned to the track and put up his two fast laps.
“It is a huge credit to the team and Roush Yates engines and everybody who works on all the superspeedway stuff to make it what it is,” said Harvick. “We have made some huge improvements and obviously to have the final Busch Beer program on board and the Busch guy here and everybody from Busch there to see the Busch pole award presented to their car is a lot of fun. It is an exciting weekend for us and always a lot of fun to have things being achieved when the sponsors are activating and doing things. It is great. Hopefully we can wind up in the same spot on Sunday.”
While not a pole, Busch’s run was his best career qualifying effort at a restrictor plate track, with a win at Talladega having eluded him throughout his career.
“Awesome run,” said Busch. “I’ve never been that close to a pole on a superspeedway in my 19 years and today I felt like we had a chance to get it. It all starts with the engine department and the way that Doug Yates really approaches these restrictor plate races. So close, but to be on the outside pole is cool.
“I am happy with that for Stewart-Haas Racing to have the front row. Our Fords have been solid all year long and then to back up the superspeedway performance the two front row starts today. It was a bucket list item. I really wanted the pole today, but got outside pole, so not too bad.”
Following Harvick and Busch to the green flag will be Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top-10.
Other notables include Darrell Wallace Jr. in 15th, Jimmie Johnson in 16th, Kyle Busch in 19th, Ryan Blaney in 23rd, and Aric Almirola bringing up the tail end of the field after his spin in qualifying.