Date: April 24, 2015
Event: Qualifying for the Richmond 400 (Round 9 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (.75-mile oval)
Pole Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (21.248 seconds at 127.071 mph)
SHR Lineup: Kurt Busch (3rd, 21.326 seconds at 126.606 mph)
Kevin Harvick (5th, 21.356 seconds at 126.428 mph)
Tony Stewart (13th, 21.358 seconds at 126.416 mph)
Danica Patrick (21st, 21.470 seconds at 125.757 mph)
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway by setting the third-fastest lap in qualifying for the Richmond 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night. Busch turned a lap of 21.326 seconds at 126.606 mph on the .75-mile oval in the final round of knockout qualifying.
“I think we surprised ourselves a little bit, which is a nice gift,” said Busch, who won at Richmond in September 2005. “The Haas Automation Chevy was on the tight side all three runs. Heck, I ran an extra lap, which was a fourth lap, and that was our 12th timed lap in qualifying here at Richmond. It got us all the way to third. So, a nice pleasant surprise. We need to work on the front to gain grip in race trim as well and go from there. All in all, I’m really pleased with this Friday practice and qualifying.”
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.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified fifth with a time of 21.356 seconds at 126.428 mph.
“Honestly, we really weren’t expecting to qualify that well,” said Harvick, who has three Sprint Cup wins at Richmond (September 2006, September 2011 and April 2013). “Just happy with the adjustments the team made to get us up in the front of the pack like that. The Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team did a good job, as usual. We struggled with the center (of the corner) and took a little chance there to try to make it turn in the center. It still didn’t turn in the center and struggled with a little bit of grip up off (the corner).”
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 13th with a time of 21.358 seconds at 126.416 mph.
“That is better than I normally qualify here at Richmond,” said Stewart, who has three Sprint Cup wins at Richmond (September 1999, May 2001 and May 2002). “I can’t really complain. It would’ve been nice to make it to the final round, but still was pretty impressed with our effort. I thought the guys did a good job today with our Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. I’m not much of a qualifier here, so I’ll take that today.”
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 21st with a time of 21.470 seconds at 125.757 mph.
“I think we put our GoDaddy Chevrolet in a good position for the race tomorrow,” said Patrick, who will make her fifth Sprint Cup start at Richmond Saturday night. “I took off for the first round and the car just wouldn’t turn at all. I really tried to get everything I could on the fourth lap of the first qualifying round. I may have overdriven it a bit, but I think it helped us advance to round two. The second round we were free on entry (into the corner), a little tight through the center and free off. We tried to make the most out of it and I think we can run well tomorrow.”
Joey Logano led the final round of knockout qualifying by taking the pole with a lap of 21.248 seconds at 127.071 mph. It was his 11th career Sprint Cup pole, his third of the season and his first at Richmond.
Denny Hamlin will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 21.294 seconds at 126.796 mph.
The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson. All are listed in the order they’ll start Saturday night’s race.