Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Harvick earns first Sprint Cup pole since 2006

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick earned the nickname "The Closer" for the way he finishes NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

Now, he finally has a handle on how to start a race.

Harvick got the pole for Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway by zipping around the 1½-mile oval Friday in his Chevrolet on Goodyear's new tires at 187.526 mph.

It was Harvick's sixth pole but first in more than six years and 254 starts, dating to Sept. 17, 2006, at New Hampshire. And it was Richard Childress Racing's first since Sept. 16, 2007, at New Hampshire, with Clint Bowyer.

Harvick and Bowyer also went on to win those races.

"Throughout my career, for whatever reason, we haven't qualified well," said Harvick, fourth in the Chase for the Championship. "We always seem to race a lot better than we qualify. We've always had better race cars than fast speed cars. But we had speed right off the bat."

Rookie Ricky Stenhouse claimed the outside spot in the first row at 187.480 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson. Tampa's Aric Almirola qualified 20th; Zephyrhills' David Reutimann 27th.

Kanaan confirmed: IndyCar powerhouse Chip Ganassi Racing added another Indianapolis 500 winner and dropped Honda engines for Chevrolet in 2014.

Reigning Indy winner Tony Kanaan turned down an offer to stay at KV Racing, instead joining close friend Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball at Ganassi. Franchitti, Kanaan and Dixon have combined to win five of the past seven 500s.

"I wanted to be in the best teams with the best guys who have been beating me forever," Kanaan said in Houston, where IndyCar is racing twice this weekend. Qualifying was postponed until this morning for today's first race because workers had to grind down a bumpy part of the street circuit.

Ganassi's engine switch wasn't a surprise; the team owner runs Chevrolets in NASCAR, and he was very critical of Honda from the start of the season in St. Petersburg, where he questioned the manufacturer's commitment.

NHRA: John Force had his first career sub-4-second run to top Funny Car qualifying and tie for the points lead at the Auto-Plus Nationals in Mohnton, Pa. Force, 64, a 15-time series champ, had a run of 3.987 seconds at 323.50 mph, and earned six bonus points to tie Matt Hagan for the lead. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led their classes.

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