At the beginning of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Kevin Harvick replaced Ryan Newman as a member of the Stewart-Haas Racing team.
On Saturday afternoon, Harvick replaced Newman in a couple more areas.
First, Harvick broke the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record Newman set last year; and then, he held on to capture the pole for today’s Brickyard 400 — a year after Newman won the pole and the race.
“We knew we had a good car,” Harvick said. “That will make the day go hopefully a lot better than in the mid-pack.”
Tony Stewart, a Columbus native and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, qualified sixth. Another Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Kurt Busch, was right behind him in seventh.
“That didn’t surprise me,” Stewart said. “Kurt, with all the laps he got during Indy, I knew he’d be good here, and Kevin’s been strong all year.”
Stewart-Haas Racing’s fourth driver, Danica Patrick, narrowly missed the final qualifying round of 12 drivers and took the 14th spot for today’s 1 p.m. race.
“We had an awesome day today,” Stewart said. “The guys on the Mobil 1 team did a great job. Kevin with his team and all three of us had good runs.
“Danica had a good run, too,” he said. “She just missed it by a little bit to get in that final round. The entire Stewart-Haas organization did a good job. This is a big motor track, so the Hendrick engines did a good job.”
Stewart turned a 186.004 mph lap in the first round, putting him in 11th place among the 24 drivers to advance. In the second round, he went 186.540 mph, putting him fourth out of the 12 to advance to the final round.
In that final round, Stewart put up a 186.193 mph lap.
“We ran the same lap time every time out,” said Stewart’s crew chief, Chad Johnston. “You would typically think with tire degradation that the tires would fall off, so to run the same (speed) or close to the same (speed) every time out was good. He went for it on that last time and just missed a little bit and ended up sixth, but we’ll take it.”
Stewart credited the increasing cloud cover with being able to maintain his speed over his three qualifying runs.
“I think the track kept cooling off,” Stewart said. “Every lap that you run, it’s harder on the tires. They’re not as good as the time before, so the fact that we were able to keep picking up speed was pretty good with how much the track cooled down.”
Harvick sped to his record 188.470 mph lap in the opening round. Jeff Gordon qualified second at 187.770, followed by Brad Kesolowski (186.693), Ryan Newman (186.765), Brian Vickers (186.455) and Stewart.
“Obviously, we wanted a shot at the pole, but it was good to see that one of the teammates got it,” Johnston said. “We can definitely get the job done from sixth. We hope to finish out with one of the cars in Victory Lane (today).”
The pole is Harvick’s fourth of the season and 10th of his career.
“Having that first pit stall is obviously pretty important,” Harvick said. “Track position is king, and hopefully, we can keep it all day.”