Date: May 22, 2014
Event: Coca-Cola 600 Qualifying (Round 12 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Pole Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (27.705 seconds at 194.911 mph)
SHR Lineup: Danica Patrick (4th, 27.931 seconds at 193.334 mph in final round)
Kevin Harvick (11th, 27.841 seconds at 193.959 mph in second round)
Tony Stewart (18th, 28.136 seconds at 191.925 mph in second round)
Kurt Busch (28th, 28.488 seconds at 189.553 mph in first round)
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Thursday at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway by setting the fourth-fastest lap in qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday.
Patrick turned a lap of 27.931 seconds at 193.334 mph around the 1.5-mile oval to notch her best Sprint Cup qualifying effort at a non-restrictor plate race. Patrick’s previous best Sprint Cup qualifying run at a non-restrictor plate track came one race ago at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where she qualified ninth.
“The GoDaddy Chevy was really good,” said Patrick, who will make her fourth Sprint Cup start at Charlotte on Sunday. “I think the big difference that came for me was in the second round. (Tony) Gibson (crew chief) made really good adjustments and anticipated the offset from run one to run two really well, and the balance was really good. We have a lot to be proud of.”
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 43-car field was set by speeds posted by those who did not advance past the first round.
“Let’s face it, this is the part of the weekend that I dreaded every time,” Patrick added. “I had to train myself to not say I hate qualifying. We were third in a round, we were first in a round and we were fourth in a round. A lot to be proud of at Stewart-Haas and for the GoDaddy Chevy, and it’s going to give us a great starting spot for Sunday.”
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 11th with a time of 27.841 seconds at 193.959 mph.
“The key is just keeping up with the racetrack,” said Harvick, a two-time winner at Charlotte and the defending winner of the Coca-Cola 600. “You just try to keep making yourself as good as you can lap after lap. In the end, there is just a lot that can happen throughout the day and into night. You just have to be patient to get yourself within at least 100 miles of the end so that our Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevy can still be in contention.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 18th with a time of 28.136 seconds at 191.925 mph.
“We were way too tight,” said Stewart, who won a 500-mile race at Charlotte in October 2003. “We still made gains through round one and into round two, but not enough to get our Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy into the final round. We’ve got another round of practice on Saturday to get it right for the race.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet SS, qualified 28th with a time of 28.488 seconds at 189.553 mph.
“The front end wouldn’t turn at all,” said Busch, who won the 2010 Coca-Cola 600. “We tried twice to get in a good lap and the front end wouldn’t turn. The Haas Automation Chevy was decent in practice, so I’m surprised. I think the track changed a lot more than we anticipated and it caught us off guard. We have some work to do on Saturday.”
Jimmie Johnson won the pole in the final round of knockout qualifying with a lap of 27.705 seconds at 194.991 mph. It was his 33rd career Sprint Cup pole, his first of the season and his fourth at Charlotte. Johnson has twice won from the pole at Charlotte.
Brad Keselowski will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 27.754 seconds at 194.567 mph.
The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Kasey Kahne, Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Harvick and Matt Kenseth. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.
Forty-five drivers attempted to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600. J.J. Yeley and Dave Blaney did not make the race.
The Coca-Cola 600 gets underway at 6 p.m. EDT Sunday with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with a pre-race show at 5:30 p.m.