Kevin Harvick, driving the #4 Busch Light Chevrolet, claimed the pole for Sunday’s 62nd Annual Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. The forecast in the east coast threaten rain for most of Friday giving drivers a chance to put in the extra effort into Friday morning’s opening practice sessions, which was also cut short by the storms that rolled into the area.
With the qualifying session cancelled due to rain Harvick had the fastest lap during the practice session with a lap time of 20.919 seconds or 129.069 mph just under the qualifying record held by Jeff Gordon set in the fall of 2013 at 20.674 seconds or 130.599 mph.
“We had decided to come into the weekend and approach qualifying a little bit different, with just the way the race tracks have been and the timing of the practices,” Harvick said. “We decided to go and take advantage of being the first car on the race track, normally we would sit in the garage and not worry about the scoreboard, but this was a different scenario, with the way the weather was and you knew that might be the only opportunity. Being the first car on the race track is usually a big advantage here when the track is green and doesn’t have a lot of rubber on it.”
Harvick has an average starting position of 15 at Richmond in 30 starts with three victories at the track and an average finish of 10.83 Harvick knows his way around the track. With rain in the area Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers developed a game plan.
“It worked out today, and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and everybody had a good plan, and it’s going to be interesting just for the fact that, the second and third times out, the times weren’t near what the first time was because the tires fall off…which is great.”
According to the NASCAR rule book the field will be ordered by practice speeds, Joey Logano (128.694 mph) will start second, followed by Jimmie Johnson (128.187 mph) in third, Carl Edwards (128.181 mph) in fourth and Denny Hamlin (128.156 mph) in fifth.
Sixth through twelfth are as follows: Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Tony Stewart, who is retiring at the end of the season, will start 18th driving the #14 Mobile 1 Advanced Fuel Economy Chevrolet in his first race of the season since an injury sidelined the driver in late January. Stewart has had an eventful few days chose to stay quiet letting Stewart-Haas Racing Competition Director Greg Zipadelli speak on Friday in the RIR garage.
“For this whole team, this company, it’s awesome to see him back at a place he loves, a place he’s had success,” said Zipadelli.
Seven minutes into practice the #46 HScott Motorsports’ Chevrolet of Michael Annett slammed into the wall sustaining significant damage to the nose of his car and was not able to post a practice speed but in an ironic twist Premium Motorsports leased its charter to HScott Motorsports leaving Cole Whitt in the cold as his #98 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet posted the slowest practice times of the cars who rely on qualifying times. If the #98 Chevrolet had its charter, Whitt would be in the race and Annett would be the one packing up to go home.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be held Sunday, April 24, with coverage on Fox beginning at 1 p.m.