HAMPTON, Ga.— Kevin Harvick will start from the pole in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500. Harvick laid down a fast lap around the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway at 190.398 mph. This is Harvick’s 18th career pole. Harvick outlasted Ryan Newman for the pole by .081 seconds for his second career Atlanta pole.
“We spent a lot of (in practice) in race trim, just not knowing this package and running Fords. We just threw the qualifying package in there at the end and it was way too tight,” Harvick said. “It’s just a tremendous credit to Stewart-Haas Racing, winning the Daytona 500 with (Kurt Busch) last week and having all the cars run great. Then to come here and see the progress that we’ve made.
The first round of qualifying saw only five drivers not make a time due to inspection issues. Drivers who did not advance to the second round include Clint Bowyer who will start 25th, Kasey Kahne, who will start 29th, and Aric Almirola, who will start 30th. No drivers will be sent home as 39 drivers competed for 40 spots. Kyle Busch was the fastest in the opening round with a speed of 190.280 mph, Newman was second at 189.850 mph, Jamie McMurray was third fastest at 189.571 mph, Denny Hamlin was fourth fastest at 189.526 mph, and Harvick rounded out the top-five at 189.396 mph.
The second round of qualifying went off without a hitch. Newman was the fastest in this round at 189.772 mph, Ky. Busch was second fastest at 189.694 mph, Harvick was third fastest at 189.519 mph, Brad Keselowski was fourth fastest at 188.925 mph, and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five at 188.751. Notable drivers who did not advance were Kurt Busch (P13), Matt Kenseth (P16), and Jimmie Johnson (P18).
The final round saw the sun setting deeper into turn one creating a blind spot for drivers. Harvick was able to grab the pole. Newman qualified second ay 189.870 mph, Ky. Busch qualified third at 189.850 mph, Stenhouse Jr. qualified fourth at 188.854 mph, and Keselowski rounded out the top-five by qualifying with a speed of 188.783 mph.
In what Clint Bowyer was hoping to be a good season, it has turned into a dismal season that he would soon like to forget.. The driver of the no. 15 Chevy for HScott Motorsports has struggled in 2016 before his move over to Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Tony Stewart in 2017.
Bowyer’s day at Sonoma ended before it even started. On lap seven, Bowyer’s car went up into smoke after an electrical fire, adding to the setbacks in 2016. Smoke entered into the cockpit, leaving Bowyer unable to breath.
After he exited the car, he slammed his helmet into the car out of frustration.
“Yeah, it’s terribly frustrating. This is my favorite race track and I’ve run really good at it. I don’t know. It kind of sometimes inexcusable when stuff breaks that quick, but who knows what happened. I’m sure a wire was rubbing on something or something and just shorted out and burnt up. It’s a shame.”
Bowyer has struggled in his one-year deal with Scott. He only has two top-10’s and is 23rd in points. Can he recover and end his season on a high note?
Tony Stewart has less than 13 races to win a race and be inside the top-30 in points to have a chance at running for the championship in his final season. There is a phrase that goes around the NASCAR community that “Tony Stewart heats up in the summer!” Is that the case? The answer is no. That has not been the case throughout the illustrious career of Stewart. Throughout his career, the summer months from June to September have given Stewart some momentum going into the final stretch of the season.
In 1999, Stewart’s rookie season, he had a win at Richmond in the month of September. In 2000, he had six wins overall, and three wins in the summer at Loudon, Dover, and Michigan. In 2001, Stewart had won at Sonoma and Bristol in the summer months. In 2002, which was a championship year for Smoke, he had one win at Sonoma during the summer. 2003 saw Stewart hit victory lane once at Pocono. In 2004, Stewart won at Chicago and Watkins Glen during the summer months. In 2005, a championship year for Stewart, he won an all-time five times during the summer months at Sonoma, Daytona, Loudon, Indianapolis, and Watkins Glen. In 2006, victory lane came once at Daytona in the summer. 2007 saw Stewart in victory lane at Chicago, Indianapolis, and Watkins Glen. Stewart hit victory lane in 2009 at Pocono, Daytona, and Watkins Glen. He hit victory lane once in 2010 at Atlanta. 2011 was a championship year for Stewart, however, all five of his season victories came during the Chase, but two of those victories came in September in Loudon and Chicago. In 2012, the only victory came at Daytona.
2008, 2013, because of a leg injury from racing on dirt, 2014, because of the Kevin Ward Jr. incident, and 2015 all saw Stewart go winless.
Stewart is currently winless in 2016. There is no doubt that he will be able to make the top-30 in points, but the real question is “Can he win a race?” Stewart is currently 35th in the points standings. Can Stewart find the magic from Lady Luck in the summer to win a race and lock himself into the Chase over the next 13 races?
Tony Stewart formally addressed the media Friday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first time since his accident on January 31. Stewart suffered a L1 vertebrae burst fracture in the deserts of California. He remembers going over a sand dune, not realizing he was in the air, and when he hit the sand, he knew he broke something. “It’s the cards we were dealt. It was a weird accident that nobody ever thought would happen.”
Much to the demise of his doctors, Stewart was at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and will be at the races of the “West Coast Swing”. “I can’t lay in bed any longer. It’s about to kill me. We did everything short of bubble wrapping me to get me on the plane to ride out here,” said Stewart.
Stewart hopes to receive the medical waiver from NASCAR.
Although Stewart is out for his last season, Stewart opened up for questions about his final season. To much surprise, he is still adamant that this will be his last season as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver. At the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, Stewart stated, “"We're done. When Homestead happens, no matter how the year went, we're done. If it's a terrible year, I'm not going to sit there and say that defined my year because the stats will show what we did over 18 years. No matter how the season goes, I'm going to be able to say I had a successful run in the Sprint Cup Series." Stewart is still adamant that he will not change his plans.
Stewart missed the Daytona 500, a race in which he never won. When asked if he would consider running a couple one-off races in the Sprint Cup Series, Stewart mentioned, "No, I'm not even 1 percent considering it," he said. "There's races that I want to run. I honestly am trying to figure out how I could run the Truck race at Eldora. … I'd love to run the Truck race there. I'd love to run some Mod Tour races at Loudon when we're up there. There's one-off races like that, but there are not going to be one-off races in the Cup Series."
No matter how the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season will go for Stewart, he remains unwavering in his decision of retirement. "If we went out there and won 15 races and won the championship, it would not make me say, 'Man, I want to come back next year,' " Stewart said. "When Homestead happens, no matter how the year went, we're done."
Ty Dillon will drive the No. 14 car when Bass Pro Shops is the primary sponsor, and Brian Vickers will drive the remaining races until Stewart is able to return to competition.
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick opted to do something rather different with her sponsor, Aspen Dental. In an attempt to raise awareness for consequences for those who do not take care of their teeth, Patrick took over a food truck, serving some rather unappetizing items.
The campaign, called “A Taste of the Future," has the Cup Series driver serving extremely unhealthy food to customers, especially with a few mixtures in a blender. Showing the stunned reactions of people, the two-minute feature elaborates on why people need to keep a healthy diet.
“Delaying dental visits for years is similar to what happens when you don’t keep up maintenance on your car and then expect it to perform the way it should," said Patrick. "You end up having higher costs to repair damage that could have been prevented with proper, regular maintenance. I love the approach that Aspen Dental took with this video – it’s a fun and creative way to deliver what is actually a really serious health message about the importance of oral health to overall health, and I was proud to be a part of it.”
Aspen Dental has a multi-race deal as the primary sponsor of Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet. Through eight races, she has two top 10s, and sits 13th in points. Following the race at Bristol, Patrick set the record for most top-10 finishes by a female driver, with six in her 90 career starts in NASCAR's premier division.