Date: June 27, 2014

Event: Kentucky 400 Qualifying (Round 17 of 36)

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (1.5-mile oval)

Pole Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (28.603 seconds at 188.791 mph – new track record)

SHR Lineup: Kevin Harvick (5th, 29.016 seconds at 186.104 mph in the final round)

                    Kurt Busch (9th, 29.040 seconds at 185.950 mph in the final round) 

                    Danica Patrick (10th, 29.063 seconds at 185.803 mph in the final round)

        Tony Stewart (13th, 29.055 seconds at 185.854 mph in the second round)

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta by setting the fifth-fastest lap in qualifying for the Kentucky 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night. Harvick turned a lap of 29.016 seconds at 186.104 mph on the 1.5-mile oval.

“We kind of battled, and I think everybody has battled because this is just a tough racetrack to get a hold of,” said Harvick, who has one top-10 finish in three Sprint Cup starts at Kentucky. “We didn’t have a great first run, but we made it better every run and wound up with a top-five start. That’s a great improvement for our Budweiser team.” 

Qualifying consisted of three rounds. The first was 25 minutes, with every driver on the track vying to set the fastest lap. The 24 fastest drivers from the first round advanced to the second, 10-minute round. The fastest 12 drivers from that session advanced to the final, five-minute round of qualifying where they battled for the pole. Positions 1-12 were set by speeds in the final round. Positions 13-24 were set by speeds posted in the second round. The remaining field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance past the first round.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified ninth with a time of 29.040 seconds at 185.950 mph.

“That was a good effort by the Haas Automation team. We were just a little bit too tight, but otherwise I thought it was a quality lap,” said Busch, whose has never finished outside the top-20 in three Sprint Cup starts at Kentucky, and has a best finish of sixth, earned in 2013. “It’s exciting to see our team improve from week to week. We always want to win the pole, but to make the final round of qualifying means it was a good effort and we can work with that. We were fast in race trim today and I think we’ll be good in the race tomorrow night.”

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 10th with a time of 29.063 seconds at 185.803 mph.

“We were pretty good,” said Patrick, who will make her 63rd career Sprint Cup start on Saturday night, but only her second at Kentucky. “We’re not quite in the top-five yet, but we’re getting awfully close. Our GoDaddy Chevy was good, just not quite in the top-five, so we need to work on that. But we’ve qualified better this year, and that’s thanks to Tony Gibson (crew chief) and everyone on this team. They’ve done a great job.”

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 13th with a time of 29.055 seconds at 185.854 mph.

“Our Rush Truck Centers Chevy is better than what we showed in qualifying,” said Stewart, whose best Sprint Cup finish at Kentucky is 12th, earned in the inaugural race in 2011. “We were pretty good in race trim, and 400 miles gives us plenty of time to adjust on it and, hopefully, make it good for the end.”

Brad Keselowski led the final round of knockout qualifying by taking the pole with a lap of 28.603 seconds at 188.791 mph, breaking the previous Sprint Cup track qualifying record of 29.406 seconds at 183.636 mph set by Dale Earnhardt Jr. on June 28, 2013. It was Keselowski’s sixth career Sprint Cup pole, his third of the season and his first at Kentucky.

Joey Logano will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 28.850 seconds at 187.175 mph.

The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Harvick, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Busch, Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard. All are listed in the order they’ll start the race.

The Kentucky 400 gets underway at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with a pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.