Kevin Harvick pulls off clean sweep in qualifying to claim Texas pole

FORT WORTH, Texas — For Kevin Harvick, the 29th time was the charm in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.

Harvick swept all three rounds of Friday qualifying to claim the pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at TMS.

Harvick’s top lap of 198.405 miles per hour in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford on the newly repaved, reconfigured 1.5-mile track in the final round was good enough for his 19th career pole, but his first in 29 tries at Texas. It also was his second pole of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

“It’s been a stressful day,” said Harvick, who also won the pole at Atlanta earlier this season. “I mean, coming and breaking in a new race track and then running as fast as we had to run for qualifying. … It’s been an interesting day.”

Ryan Blaney was second-fastest in the final round, with Clint Bowyer third. Harvick also was fastest in the first two rounds of qualifying, with Bowyer second-fastest in each.

Overall, Ford drivers swept the top five qualifying spots, with Harvick, Blaney and Bowyer followed by the Team Penske tandem of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

There was plenty of drama in the opening session of the three-round qualifying, as the drivers battled a slick, unfamiliar track that caused plenty of them problems — as well as a technical inspection station that proved too tough for many of them to pass in time to qualify.

Jimmie Johnson posted a ninth-fastest lap plenty quick enough to advance out of the first round. But on his cool-down lap he lost control of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and went for a long slide that flat-spotted his tires, preventing him from participating in the final two sessions. He’ll roll off in 24th at the start Sunday.

Meanwhile, a number of cars thought to be possible contenders for the win – including the No. 88 Hendrick Chevy of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy of Kyle Larson, and the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy of Kasey Kahne – did not clear pre-qualifying inspection in time to compete for the pole at all.

Nine cars in all did not make it through inspection in time to qualify, including the backup cars of Chase Elliott and Erik Jones — who had to go to those after wrecking their primary cars in Friday’s lone practice session.

All those who did not clear inspection in time will have to start in the rear of the field on Sunday, based on car owner points heading into the weekend.

“I ain’t too worried about it,” said Earnhardt, who will start 37th. “This race is pretty long. … I don’t know what was wrong with our car going through tech, but if you don’t make it, you don’t make it.”

For complete qualifying results and Sunday’s starting lineup, click here.