Daniel Hemric may be out of the Playoffs and out of his ride at Richard Childress racing next year, but that didn’t stop the driver of the No. 8 RCR Chevrolet from winning the pole position for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
In Saturday’s time trials for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 elimination race, Hemric covered the 1.5-mile distance in 30.329 seconds (178.047 mph) to earn the top starting spot, not to mention his first career Busch Pole Award, by .035 seconds over second-place David Ragan (177.842 mph).
“Yeah, it’s pretty special,” acknowledged Hemric, who recently learned he would not be retained by RCR next year. “I kind of just feel crazy. I got out of the car, and I thought I’d be maybe fifth to eighth but, man, these guys on this Caterpillar Camaro ZL1 have done a great job all year of no matter what’s thrown at us, kind of just rising to the occasion and showing back up at the race track every week ready to work.
“And with all that going on, there’s so much going on around us, that you can get lost in the distraction of things. But to know these guys have continued to have my back through all that stuff has meant the world to me. So congratulations to ECR (Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines) and RCR. They’ve been doing a great job for us all year. It’s cool to be the guy to steer it around the line there and get the quick time.”
Ryan Blaney, who qualified third at 177.754 mph was the top Playoff driver on the grid. Blaney is already locked into the Round of 8 in the Playoffs by virtue of last Monday’s victory at Talladega. Brad Keselowski (177.667 mph) will start fourth beside his Team Penske teammate.
Dover winner Kyle Larson earned the fifth starting spot in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Blaney, Keselowski and Larson are the only three Playoff drivers to earn top-10 spots on the grid. Two-time Kansas winner and Playoff contender Martin Truex Jr. will start 11th in the top-qualifying Toyota.
Other Playoff contenders qualified as follows: Chase Elliott 14th, Alex Bowman 16th, Kyle Busch 18th, Clint Bowyer 21st, Denny Hamlin 23rd, William Byron 25th, Joey Logano 29th and Kevin Harvick 40th. After three inspection failures, Harvick was not allowed to make a qualifying run, and car chief Robert Smith was ejected from the track.
“I have to pass a lot of cars,” Harvick said. “It is what it is at this point. You just go out and try to strategize and plan what you can and try to pass as many cars when you can at the beginning and go from there.”