AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The statistics show that Kevin Harvick is the driver to beat at Phoenix International Raceway.
His speed, coupled with the unbelievable momentum he’s had since late last season, shows he may not be beatable at all in the desert.
Harvick won the pole Friday at Phoenix, where he’s won four of the last five races and six for his career. His lap of 140.751 mph in his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet gave him his first ever Sprint Cup pole at the track he loves.
It was yet another milestone for the defending NASCAR champion and his No. 4 team, coming off Harvick’s first career victory at Las Vegas.
“To get that first pole with these guys and celebrate anything that we hadn’t done … every week is just a new adventure,” Harvick said. “It’s pretty special to be a part of a group of guys like this.”
Asked what it will take to beat him Sunday, Harvick smirked. From the back of the room, second-place qualifier and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano waited, “Tell us the secret!” he yelled to Harvick.
Harvick didn’t sound as if there is a surefire way to keep the No. 4 out of victory lane.
“There’s just so many circumstances that you can’t control, so many things that can go wrong, mistakes that you can make,” Harvick said. “We can make some bad decisions as we go through practice and miss the balance when we start the race. There’s just a lot of things that can go wrong.”
Logano heard what Harvick was saying loud and clear.
“I don’t know if you noticed his answer — the only was he can get beat is him screwing up. I don’t know if you heard that,” Logano said. “Sounds like it will take a mistake or crash or strategy call.”
But Logano, who has a win among his three top-10 finishes this season, isn’t giving up. His Team Penske Ford has been just as consistent as Harvick so far this year, and if he can hang with Harvick over a long run Sunday, he believes he has a chance.
“We work hard to make our cars faster than his, and we have been getting closer,” Logano said. “I feel like the last three times we have been here we have been a second-place car. That next step is a pretty big step to try to find more speed.
“We can do it. We are not that far off. We are just a little off. We are in the ballpark.”
But Harvick is on a roll that’s not been seen in some time. He opened the season with a second-place finish to Logano in the Daytona 500, was second at Atlanta, then finally won last week at Las Vegas. Dating back to last season, has six consecutive top-two finishes, has won three of the last six races dating to last season, and used his win at Phoenix last year to catapult his championship run.
“Kevin Harvick is in one of the strongest sequences that I’ve ever seen in our sport,” said SHR teammate Kurt Busch.
Jamie McMurray qualified third and thought he might have had a shot at the pole, only to be outdone by Harvick.
“The No. 4 car is just on a roll,” McMurray said. “It stinks to be a part of it and have to finish behind him, but it’s pretty awesome to see the results that team is having.”
Matt Kenseth was fourth and followed by Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards.
Busch, back from a NASCAR suspension that spanned the first three races of the season, qualified eighth. He’ll be making his season debut on Sunday, and is grateful it comes at the first short track on the NASCAR schedule.
Busch has yet to compete in the 2015 rules package, but thinks he’s not at a huge disadvantage to his competitors because no one has raced it on a short track yet. He also has more experience at Phoenix than he does anywhere else on the circuit.
“I don’t feel like I am too far behind,” he said. “It’s an even playing field with the new package and everyone at a track less than a mile-and-a-half.”
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