BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kevin Harvick made Michigan International Speedway's latest track record look routine.
In what is becoming an annual occurrence, Harvick pushed the track's qualifying mark a little bit higher Friday, winning the pole for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at 204.557 mph. Harvick's pole-winning speed was the fastest since Bill Elliott set the record of 212.809 at Talladega Superspeedway in April 1987.
"This is one of those racetracks where you're running fast, but you really can't put it all in perspective, I guess, until you hit something," Harvick said. "It's so wide, it's so fast and so smooth, but you don't really get that huge sensation of speed."
Drivers have broken 200 mph with regularity at Michigan since the 2-mile oval was repaved before the 2012 season. Marcos Ambrose had a speed of 203.241 in 2012, the first time anyone won a pole at over 200 since Elliott did it before horsepower-sapping restrictor plates were introduced at Talladega and Daytona.
Last August, Joey Logano increased the track record to 203.949.
Harvick was even faster in winning his third pole of the year and ninth of his career. Points leader Jeff Gordon was second, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third.
Juan Montoya returned to Sprint Cup, qualifying 28th at 200.217. The Michigan event will be his first Cup race since moving back to IndyCar after last season. Montoya's last win in NASCAR was in 2010, a year after he made the Chase for the Championship and finished a career-best eighth in points. This weekend's race is a tune-up for next month's Brickyard 400, another NASCAR event Montoya added to his IndyCar schedule.
"Our goal here, I think, is we'll take it as it comes this weekend," Montoya said. "But the way we really look at it is it's really good preparation for the Brickyard."
NHRA: Brittany Force led the first day of Top Fuel qualifying at the Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn., with a run of 3.828 seconds at 317.94 mph. Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also led their categories.