By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Kevin Harvick ended Saturday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series knockout qualifying session at Darlington Raceway with an excellent omen for Sunday night's Bojangles' Southern 500.
Covering the 1.366-mile distance in 27.669 seconds (177.730 mph) in the final round, Harvick earned his second career pole at the Lady in Black. The first time Harvick was the top qualifier at Darlington was in 2014. He went on to win the Bojangles' Southern 500. After that, he won the series championship.
Last year, Harvick started first and finished second when the field was ordered according to owner points because of a qualifying rainout.
The Coors Light Pole Award was Harvick's fourth of the season and the 21st of his career. It also represented a benchmark of progress the Stewart-Haas Racing organization has made in its transition from Chevrolet to Ford in 2017.
"I think, obviously, we've had a big gap of learning since we switched to Ford," said Harvick, who swept all three rounds of qualifying in the No. 4 SHR Ford. "A lot of things have been different. We've had to do a lot of things different, and the work load's been pretty heavy.
"I'm really proud of everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing for everything that they've done. We just keep getting better and better. Hopefully, we can keep improving, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come on Sunday night."
Martin Truex Jr. (177.077 mph) qualified second, earning his eighth front-row start of the season, a number that includes one pole and seven second-place efforts. Kyle Busch claimed the third starting spot, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray for Sunday's race (NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET).
"That was definitely a good qualifying session for us," Truex said. "We were off a little bit in the first round and just kept working on the car. I kind of adjusted my driving style throughout all three rounds, and we ended up second.
"It seems like we've been second a lot this year, and it's been a good number for us, and hopefully it'll be a good one on Sunday night."
Among drivers trying to fight their way into the playoff with race wins, Joey Logano qualified eighth, Erik Jones was 10th and Clint Bowyer was 16th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 22nd in his last Darlington race in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
"We didn't make any qualifying runs (in practice), and we got something decent out of today," said Earnhardt. "In race trim, we fell off really hard on the long run, so we've still got some more time to work on it. We just need to keep looking forward and see if we can get better."
"Anything can happen in this race. There's limited sets of tires and you never know what can happen. Hopefully, we can get enough speed in our car and have the right strategy and the right tires at the right time."
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying - Bojangles' Southern 500
Darlington, South Carolina
Saturday, September 2, 2017
1. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 177.730 mph.
2. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 177.077 mph.
3. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 176.682 mph.
4. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 176.568 mph.
5. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 176.422 mph.
6. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 176.107 mph.
7. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 176.037 mph.
8. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 176.006 mph.
9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 175.918 mph.
10. (77) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 175.403 mph.
11. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 175.372 mph.
12. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 175.022 mph.
13. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 175.830 mph.
14. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 175.391 mph.
15. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 175.328 mph.
16. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 175.291 mph.
17. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 175.060 mph.
18. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 175.022 mph.
19. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 174.948 mph.
20. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 174.910 mph.
21. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 174.662 mph.
22. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 174.618 mph.
23. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 174.007 mph.
24. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 173.712 mph.
25. (13) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 174.804 mph.
26. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 174.718 mph.
27. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 174.556 mph.
28. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 174.482 mph.
29. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 173.761 mph.
30. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 173.705 mph.
31. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 172.978 mph.
32. (15) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 171.824 mph.
33. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, 171.758 mph.
34. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 171.458 mph.
35. (23) Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 171.441 mph.
36. (83) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 170.958 mph.
37. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 170.301 mph.
38. (55) Derrike Cope, Toyota, 167.425 mph.
39. (51) Cody Ware, Chevrolet, 166.326 mph.
40. (66) Carl Long(i), Chevrolet, 165.592 mph.