Harvick shakes off cheating scandal to win pole at Phoenix
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The cheating scandal that knocked Kevin Harvick out of NASCAR’s championship round didn’t slow him a bit at one of his favorite race tracks.
Harvick won the pole for Sunday’s final qualifying race for the championship finale with a strong run that briefly overshadowed the controversy his Stewart-Haas Racing team created with an illegal part.
Harvick turned a lap at 139.340 mph Friday around ISM Raceway outside Phoenix to put himself in position to requalify for the championship. His winning car from last week was found to have an illegal spoiler and the punishment cost him his automatic berth into the final four.
Needing a trouble-free run at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix to get back into the finale, Harvick put his No. 4 Ford in the top starting spot.
“It’s more about people than it is about cars and we’ve got a lot of good people,” Harvick said. “You can’t drive a slow car fast and you can’t beat good people.”
Harvick is working this weekend with an interim crew chief and car chief because his have been suspended for the final two races of the season. Rodney Childers, the regular crew chief, watched qualifying on television in North Carolina and tweeted a simple reaction to Harvick’s qualifying run: “Boom,” Childers wrote.
Harvick is a nine-time winner at Phoenix, most recently in March. He also won at Phoenix in 2014 when a victory was the only thing that would qualify him for the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale, where he captured his only Cup championship.
As for what happened with his car at Texas last week, or Childers’ explanation earlier Friday in that the manufactured spoiler was done because the team saw other teams were manipulating the part, Harvick had nothing to offer.
“I don’t build the cars. I couldn’t tell you what’s on the car. What’s good, what’s bad,” Harvick said. “That’s their job and I drive it. I show up and do the best that I can and obviously you’ve seen the statements and the things from Stewart-Haas Racing and the best thing that shows up are results on the race track. I drive and try to do the best that I can and we go from there.”
Chase Elliott, a playoff contender, qualified second and was followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman, none of who are racing for the three remaining spots in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only Joey Logano is already locked into Homestead and he qualified ninth.
The rest of the playoff drivers are spread throughout the field. Kyle Busch qualified sixth, reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. was 13th and followed by Kurt Busch. Clint Bowyer qualified 15th and Aric Almirola was 18th, lowest of the playoff drivers.