NASCAR

Kevin Harvick takes pole for Homestead finale, Kyle Busch leads championship four

Kevin Harvick will start on pole position for the final race of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup series on Sunday; the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick, who isn’t in the hunt for the championship, took the pole in the final session of qualifying, beating out all four championship contenders who start further down the order.

Kyle Busch qualified the highest of all four of the championship contenders after taking ninth, with fellow contender and teammate Carl Edwards just behind in tenth. Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson failed to get into the final round, with the latter having a stressful session after almost being eliminated in round one.

In the midst of the championship battle, Kevin Harvick bounced back from being eliminated from the hunt last week at Phoenix to take pole position. Throughout the first two sessions, it was Chase Elliott who looked to be on his way to the pole after two staggeringly quick times, but Harvick was able to capitalise on a slightly slower run for Elliott to take pole with a lap time of 30.399 seconds.

Homestead-Miami Speedway once again lent itself to drivers running a multitude of lines around the mile and a half oval. Brad Keselowski ran right up against the wall at turn two in the final round on his way to a front row start. He will line up second after missing out on pole by just seventeen-thousandths of a second.

By contrast, Ryan Newman was one of the notable drivers who ran right on the apron at the bottom of the track. This worked for him early on when his Goodyear tyres were new, but the later into qualifying he got, the further up the track he had to run as grip fell away.

Birthday boy Denny Hamlin will line up fourth ahead of the impressive Chase Elliott, who was massively quick in rounds one and two. He faded a little in the final session to qualify fifth, but he’ll be hoping to finally get the monkey off of his back by winning in the final race of his rookie season in Sprint Cup.

Martin Truex Jr will line up sixth ahead of Matt Kenseth, who won’t contend for a championship after being eliminated last week in a late race wreck. Ryan Blaney will be just behind Kenseth after qualifying in the eighth position.

The first two of our championship contenders will share the fifth row of the grid on Sunday, with teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards qualifying in ninth and tenth respectively. The pair had been running a little further up the order in previous sessions, but both were comparatively slow in the final round.

Despite their slower laps in the final round, Busch and Edwards will at least take comfort in the fact that they out qualified their two other championship rivals; Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson. Both Logano and Johnson failed to make it into the top twelve to advance to the final round after qualifying in thirteenth and fourteenth.

Johnson, in particular, had a dramatic qualifying session. Strategy played a role early on, with crew chief Chad Knaus sending his driver out right at the start of round one to try and make sure the #48 Chevrolet was cooled down for round two. This backfired, with Johnson putting in a slow lap that necessitated him running again at the end of the session.

With the threat of elimination in round one, which Johnson hadn’t faced at all this year, it was up to him to nail a lap in the dying moments of the session. He was on a second lap when the #38 of Landon Cassill spun and brought out the red flag. Johnson aborted his lap and had one more shot when the session was restarted. Thankfully, he just managed to squeeze through in the twenty-second position, before going on to take fourteenth in the second round. This was a massive save for the #48 team who won’t be so disappointed after what could’ve been.

Away from the championship fight, Tony Stewart qualified in a solid eleventh place for his final race before retirement. He’ll be hoping for a strong result to cap off an incredible career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Fellow retiree Brian Scott qualified 22nd in the final qualifying run of his Cup series career.

So the four championship contenders will start in the mid-pack for Sunday’s winner takes all showdown for the Sprint Cup. Whoever finishes the highest out of Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson will be crowned as the 2016 champion after 400 miles of racing. It’s going to be one hell of a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, make sure you tune in!

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 qualifying results:

POS.  CAR # DRIVER MANUFACTURER BEST SPEED (MPH) BEST TIME GAP
1 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 177.637 30.399 Leader
2 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 177.538 30.416 –0.017
3 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 177.387 30.442 –0.043
4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 177.194 30.475 –0.076
5 24 Chase Elliott Chevrolet 177.096 30.492 –0.093
6 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota 176.974 30.513 –0.114
7 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 176.505 30.594 –0.195
8 21 Ryan Blaney Ford 176.413 30.610 –0.211
9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 175.959 30.689 –0.290
10 19 Carl Edwards Toyota 175.615 30.749 –0.350
11 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 174.978 30.861 –0.462
12 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet 174.831 30.887 –0.488
13 22 Joey Logano Ford 176.638 30.571 –0.172
14 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 176.269 30.635 –0.236
15 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 176.263 30.636 –0.237
16 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 176.246 30.639 –0.240
17 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 176.120 30.661 –0.262
18 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 175.965 30.688 –0.289
19 88 Alex Bowman Chevrolet 175.655 30.742 –0.343
20 6 Trevor Bayne Ford 175.536 30.763 –0.364
21 16 Greg Biffle Ford 175.018 30.854 –0.455
22 44 Brian Scott Ford 174.984 30.860 –0.461
23 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet 174.972 30.862 –0.463
24 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 173.756 31.078 –0.679
25 43 Aric Almirola Ford 175.092 30.841 –0.442
26 59 Michael McDowell Chevrolet 174.972 30.862 –0.463
27 34 Chris Buescher Ford 174.967 30.863 –0.464
28 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 174.893 30.876 –0.477
29 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 174.695 30.911 –0.512
30 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 174.667 30.916 –0.517
31 49 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota 174.306 30.980 –0.581
32 38 Landon Cassill Ford 174.025 31.030 –0.631
33 15 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 173.952 31.043 –0.644
34 95 Ty Dillon Chevrolet 173.796 31.071 –0.672
35 7 Regan Smith Chevrolet 173.706 31.087 –0.688
36 23 David Ragan Toyota 172.529 31.299 –0.900
37 55 Reed Sorenson Toyota 170.578 31.657 –1.258
38 83 Jeffrey Earnhardt Toyota 168.687 32.012 –1.613
39 32 Dylan Lupton Ford 166.036 32.523 –2.124
40 46 Michael Annett Chevrolet 165.853 32.559 –2.160

Featured image courtesy of NASCAR.com – http://www.nascar.com/content/dam/nascar/articles/2016/11/18/main/harvick-qual-main.jpg/jcr:content/renditions/original

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