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Contenders Have Tough Friday

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, November 19 2016
Speed was hard to find for championship contender Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus on Friday in Homestead. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

Speed was hard to find for championship contender Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus on Friday in Homestead. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

No member of the Championship 4 will start Sunday’s season-ending, championship-deciding Sprint Cup  race anywhere near the front row at Homestead-Miami Speedway as all contenders had blah qualifying efforts on Friday.

Instead, non-contender Kevin Harvick (177.637 mph) will start from the pole while fellow non-contender Brad Keselowski will line up second on Sunday.

Rounding out the top five were Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott – all of whom are non Chasers.

Top qualifiers among those actually in contention for the 2016 championship were were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards who qualified ninth and 10th respectively.

The other two of the Championship 4, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson, were 13th and 14th after qualifying.

“Yeah, I told Jimmie, ‘Man, we all suck,’” Logano said. “I don’t know what happened. It’s interesting that we’re all starting so close to each other and not towards the front. It’s not what you would expect coming here.

“I’m sure none of us are going to stay back there very long. When this race starts, we’ll all have to move up forward and possibly have to win this race. It has come down to that the last few years and I would expect the same once again.”

“That’s awesome,” Harvick said. ” I didn’t know if we had a chance at the pole with as fast as the No. 24 (Chase Elliott) had been. But I knew if we could just run the same speed every round, that is half the battle because you never know how much it is going to slow down for everybody else, and it doesn’t take much to make a mistake.

Johnson barely made it out of the first round of the three-round qualifying system and did not make it out of the second.

“Unfortunately, that first outing we just didn’t get a good lap,” Johnson said. “Then I was on a great lap and the caution came out, so we ended up with an additional lap on our tires. We had a nice pickup there for five or six laps on our tires, whatever it was and ended up 14th.

“A bit unlucky, and we kind of hurt ourselves that opening run, and I think to end up 14th on the age of those tires is respectable. Qualifying isn’t my strong suit. I’m much better at racing, so let’s line them up and go racing.”

Busch was philosophical about his starting spot.

“Yeah, it wasn’t certainly the run that we were looking for,” he said. “We were wanting to see a little bit better than that, but we were just too free during qualifying. We just kind of missed the balance a little bit and didn’t quite have the confidence that I needed within the car to get more out of it.

“But it was a decent qualifying effort, I guess, if you consider the big picture of where we’re all at. We’re all pretty tight. Throw a blanket over each other–we’re all right there. At least one camera can probably catch us all when we turn off into Turn 1.

With his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season and the 17th of his career, Harvick wouldn’t mind upstaging the drivers competing for the series title.

“Well, I think for us it’s really the same as it has been,” Harvick said. “You know, you prepare and do all the same things. We’ve done everything the same. Obviously, there’s not as much pressure coming into the weekend as there normally would be, and a lot less to do, so that’s a good thing.

“So yeah, it would be nice to win a race and close the season out. Just a lot of reasons–Tony’s last race, last race with Chevrolet (before Stewart-Haas switches to Ford next year). So, yeah, came here to try to win, same as everybody else. No participation trophies.”

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Ford EcoBoost 400

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead, Florida

Friday, November 18, 2016

  1. (4)  Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 177.637 mph.
  2. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 177.538 mph.
  3. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 177.387 mph.
  4. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 177.194 mph.
  5. (24)  Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 177.096 mph.
  6. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 176.974 mph.
  7. (20)  Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 176.505 mph.
  8. (21)  Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 176.413 mph.
  9. (18)  Kyle Busch (C), Toyota, 175.959 mph.
  10. (19)  Carl Edwards (C), Toyota, 175.615 mph.
  11. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 174.978 mph.
  12. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 174.831 mph.
  13. (22)  Joey Logano (C), Ford, 176.638 mph.
  14. (48)  Jimmie Johnson (C), Chevrolet, 176.269 mph.
  15. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 176.263 mph.
  16. (41)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 176.246 mph.
  17. (3)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 176.120 mph.
  18. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 175.965 mph.
  19. (88)  Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 175.655 mph.
  20. (6)  Trevor Bayne, Ford, 175.536 mph.
  21. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 175.018 mph.
  22. (44)  Brian Scott #, Ford, 174.984 mph.
  23. (13)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 174.972 mph.
  24. (42)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 173.756 mph.
  25. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 175.092 mph.
  26. (59)  Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 174.972 mph.
  27. (34)  Chris Buescher #, Ford, 174.967 mph.
  28. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 174.893 mph.
  29. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 174.695 mph.
  30. (10)  Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 174.667 mph.
  31. (49)  Matt DiBenedetto(i), Toyota, 174.306 mph.
  32. (38)  Landon Cassill, Ford, 174.025 mph.
  33. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 173.952 mph.
  34. (95)  Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 173.796 mph.
  35. (7)  Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 173.706 mph.
  36. (23)  David Ragan, Toyota, 172.529 mph.
  37. (55)  Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 170.578 mph.
  38. (83)  Jeffrey Earnhardt #, Toyota, 168.687 mph.
  39. (32)  Dylan Lupton(i), Ford, 166.036 mph.
  40. (46)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 165.853 mph.

1 driver failed to qualify.

  1. (30)  Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 168.935 mph.
| , RacinToday.com Saturday, November 19 2016
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