By Reid Spencer | NASCAR Wire Service
JOLIET, Ill. — Kevin Harvick will start the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from the same position he ended last year’s playoff — in the No. 1 spot.
When torrential rain at Chicagoland Speedway wiped out Friday’s time trials at the 1.5-mile track, Harvick earned the Coors Light Pole position for Sunday’s MyAFibRisk.com 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) by virtue of having posted the fastest lap during opening practice.
With heavy rains forecasted for the afternoon, most drivers focused on mock qualifying runs during practice, anticipating the field for the opening Chase race would be set according to practice speeds. Harvick was the only driver to top 188 mph in the opening session, running a lap at 188.317 mph.
Joey Logano, a Championship 4 competitor in 2014, will start on the outside of the front row, after running 187.911 mph in practice. With Brad Keselowski third quickest and Martin Truex Jr. fourth, Chase drivers claimed the top four starting spots and six of the top seven.
Ryan Newman will start sixth and Kyle Busch seventh in the 400-mile event.
“First off,” Harvick said, “I’m just most proud of my team for having a fast race car and coming to the track and having a plan and doing all the things that they did to pay attention to the weather and put a lot of emphasis on trying to lay a fast lap down, just like everybody else, to get a good starting position with the way that the weather was (looking).”
Logano and his team spent the entire 85-minute practice session in qualifying trim, expecting time trials to be rained out.
“We looked at the forecast and knew there was a good chance of rain,” Logano said. “Any time that happens, you focus in on qualifying in practice a little bit more. We haven’t been in race trim yet … Really, I felt like it was qualifying during practice.
“We were really trying to top the chart because we really felt like that was where we were going to start — at the end of practice.”
Harvick, on the other hand, started in race trim to get a feel for the track before he moved to a qualifying setup.
“We started in race trim because (Crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and I felt like this is one of those places … it’s a hard place to drive around because it’s so rough, and the timing and rhythm of the race track is something that, as a driver, you need to be able to get into that rhythm before you go into qualifying trim.”
Two Chase drivers who failed to post strong practice speeds — Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin — will start 26th and 29th, respectively, in Sunday’s race. Other Chasers secured spots on the grid as follows: Kurt Busch (ninth), Jeff Gordon (10th), Jimmie Johnson (11th), Matt Kenseth (12th), Jamie McMurray (13th), Carl Edwards (14th), Paul Menard (16th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (19th).
A major casualty of the cancellation was Ryan Blaney, who was ninth fastest in opening practice in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford but will not start the race under rainout rules (because of fewer qualifying attempts this year). This is the third time this season Blaney has been knocked out of a race by rain.
Michael McDowell and Travis Kvapil also failed to make the 43-car field.
Starting Lineup for MyAFibRisk.com 400