Date: April 17, 2015
Event: Qualifying for the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer (Round 8 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Pole Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (14.917 seconds at 128.632 mph)
SHR Lineup: Kevin Harvick (4th, 14.966 seconds at 128.211 mph in the final round)
Kurt Busch (7th, 15.124 seconds at 126.871 mph in the final round)
Tony Stewart (21st, 15.249 seconds at 125.831 mph in the second round)
Danica Patrick (26th, 15.189 seconds at 126.328 mph in the first round)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway by setting the fourth-fastest lap in qualifying for the Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday. Harvick turned a lap of 14.966 seconds at 128.211 mph on the .533-mile oval in the final round of knockout qualifying.
“We just got really loose on entry into the corner,” said Harvick, who won at Bristol in March 2005. “We carried that through all three sessions. It was just kind of really had to guard against it all three runs. All in all, the Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team did a great job and it’s still a solid starting spot. We have a lot to work on, but a good starting spot for us.”
Qualifying consisted of three rounds. The first was 20 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 in the second round. The remaining 43-car 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 seventh with a time of 15.124 seconds at 126.871 mph.
“Qualifying was a scramble with traffic jumping up in front of us,” said Busch, who has five Sprint Cup wins at Bristol (March 2002, March 2003, August 2003, March 2004 and March 2006). “We were fighting loose with the Haas Automation Chevy in practice. The first time out when we got held up in traffic, the car had a whole different balance. The second time out we surprised ourselves and we were fourth quick. Then I drove too conservative. I didn’t lay down the throttle hard enough on both ends. I was a bit conservative and maybe lost half a tenth on each end.”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 21st with a time of 15.249 seconds at 125.831 mph.
“The car was free,” said Stewart, who won at Bristol in August 1999. “It was like being on a dirt track and I was looking for the cushion on top of the corners. We need to take advantage of our two practice sessions tomorrow and get this Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy race ready.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 26th with a time of 15.189 seconds at 126.328 mph.
“The car was a little bit tight,” said Patrick, who will make her sixth Sprint Cup start at Bristol on Sunday. “I’m mildly pleased that it was tight because in practice it was loose, loose, loose. I couldn’t get into the corner the way that I felt like I really needed to carry the speed through the center. We were faster than we were in practice, but it’s not a great qualifying position. We just have to keep working hard and make the most of what we have for practice tomorrow. The GoDaddy Chevy isn’t starting where I want it to be, but a lot can happen here at Bristol.”
Matt Kenseth led the final round of knockout qualifying by taking the pole with a lap of 14.917 seconds at 128.632 mph. It was his 14th career Sprint Cup pole, his first of the season and his second at Bristol.
Brad Keselowski will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 14.939 seconds at 128.442 mph.
The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Carl Edwards, Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Busch, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan and Austin Dillon. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.