For the second consecutive week Kevin Harvick was fastest in the first two rounds of Sprint Cup Series qualifying. For the second consecutive week Harvick failed to win the pole in the final round of qualifying as Kasey Kahne narrowly edged Harvick out to win his first pole in the last 91 races.
“I got through (Turns) 1 and 2 pretty good, just got a little free but was able to stay in it,” Kahne said after capturing his first pole since Kansas in 2012. “In (Turn) 3, I started to slide the nose so I had to backpedal and go back down. I knew it killed my exit a little, but it was still a great lap. It’s been a while since I’ve won a pole.”
This is Kahne’s third career pole at Michigan International Speedway and it’s his 27th career pole in the Sprint Cup Series. Kahne has one win at Michigan back in June of 2006.
“I don’t know if I got everything out of it but all of the rounds were within seven one-hundredths of each other,” Harvick said after qualifying second. “The guys are doing a great job, Kasey just ran a better lap than we did.”
The driver of the No. 4 has finished second in four consecutive races at Michigan to go along with his eight second-place finishes this season. He will look for his third win of 2015 on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski will start from the third position on Sunday afternoon. The driver of the No. 2 ran a quicker lap in each of the three sessions. This is self-admittedly Keselowski’s equivalent to the Daytona 500 because it is his home track.
“Every round we got better,” Keselowski said after recording his best career start at his home track. “I learned a little bit and by the end we came up just short. Qualifying here is really important but more important is probably that pit stall, trying to make the best of your day.”
The rest of the top five include Carl Edwards and Sprint Cup rookie Ryan Blaney. Edwards’ car was one of the last cars to make it through inspection as it had to go through the inspection process multiple times. Blaney has had speed in his car all day on Friday. It will be crucial for The Wood Brothers team to have good practice sessions on Saturday in preparations for Sunday’s fast 400-miler.
Austin Dillon knocked Denny Hamlin out of the top-12 by one one-hundredth of a second as time expired in round two of qualifying. Dillon improved in the final round and will roll off from the seventh position for the race.
“Our second run we just got too loose and wasn’t able to do anything with the throttle,” said Hamlin after qualifying 13th. “With all of the throttle that we are running around the track, if you just crack it a little bit in the wrong place then you’ll pay for it. I knew we were in trouble.”
Hamlin was quick in practice as he turned the fourth quickest lap with an average speed of over 200 mph.
Kurt Busch who is driving a backup car after crashing with about 20 minutes remaining in opening practice on Friday afternoon. Busch qualified in the 24th position for Sunday’s race. The No. 41 primary car was 17th on the practice charts Friday morning.
Other drivers such as Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all failed to make it in to the second round of qualifying. McMurray will lineup Sunday from the 25th position. Bowyer, who began his first weekend with new crew chief Billy Scott has struggled so far this weekend and will start from the 32nd position. Stenhouse qualified in the 33rd position in Roush’s backyard.
“I didn’t really drive the car hard enough in the first run,” McMurray said after not making it into the second round of qualifying. “When we made out sticker run right before the rain came in practice I was extremely loose. I tried to put in a 90 percent lap that would make it into the next round. We came up a little bit short.”
The only driver who failed to qualify for Sunday’s Cup Series race at Michigan is Brendan Gaughan.