Date: Nov. 20, 2015

Event: Qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season Finale (Round 36 of 36)

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location: Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

Pole Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (30.568 seconds at 176.655 mph) 

SHR Lineup: Kevin Harvick (13th, 30.779 seconds at 175.444 mph)

                  Kurt Busch (15th, 30.793 seconds at 175.365 mph)

                  Danica Patrick (35th, 31.311 seconds at 172.463 mph)

                  Tony Stewart (36th, 31.345 seconds at 172.276 mph)

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway by setting the 13th-fastest lap in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale on Sunday. Harvick turned a lap of 30.779 seconds at 175.444 mph on the 1.5-mile oval in the second round of knockout qualifying.

“I don’t know how much that had to do with being the very first car on the racetrack with no one in front of me. Nobody had been on the racetrack for that first run, but the balance was good. I didn’t have any issues,” said Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion who earned the title by winning last year at Homestead. “Then on the second run as I was coming to green it was just extremely tight to the center of turns one and two. 

“Overall, the Budweiser/Jimmy John’s team hasn’t qualified as well as we did last year. We’ve been more consistent this year, but haven’t won as many poles. So, we have experience working through the practices on Saturday to dial the car in and make it better for the race on Sunday. It’s tough at this particular track to get what you need because you practice during the day in the sunlight and race in the evening. We’ll rely on our experience and the guys will get a good pit stall on pit road and we’ll fight all day.” 

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 15th with a time of 30.793 seconds at 175.365 mph.

“I drove into turn one a little too hard on that last lap,” said Busch, who won at Homestead in 2002. “Our Haas Automation Chevrolet was tight everywhere. Hopefully that tightness will help us in the race Sunday.”

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 35th with a time of 31.311 seconds at 172.463 mph.

“The GoDaddy Chevy felt like it was out of the track coming to the green, was OK in (turns) one and two, and was just way too tight in (turns) three and four,” said Patrick, who will make her third Sprint Cup start at Homestead on Sunday. “Luckily, we have two more practice sessions tomorrow to get things right for Sunday.”

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, qualified 36th with a time of 31.345 seconds at 172.276 mph. 

“Our Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy was just too tight through the first third of the corner,” said Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup winner at Homestead. 

Denny Hamlin led the final round of knockout qualifying by taking the pole with a lap of 30.568 seconds at 176.655 mph. It was his 23rd career Sprint Cup pole, his third of the season and his first at Homestead.

Joey Logano will start on the outside of row one after clocking in at 30.636 seconds at 176.263 mph. 

The 10 other drivers who made it to the final round of qualifying were Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Blaney, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. All are listed in the order they’ll start Sunday’s race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale gets underway at 3 p.m. EST Sunday with live coverage provided by NBC.