Kevin Harvick went from freaky fast to just plain freaky during Saturday’s final Sprint Cup practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick, who on Friday qualified second for Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, will instead start at the back of the pack on race day after an uncharacteristic engine failure in Saturday’s “Happy Hour” session.
Harvick was at the top of the practice speed chart with a best lap of 191.054 mph, when the engine in his No.4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet unexpectedly let go on his 35th lap during the session.
While Harvick’s name still stood as the fastest once the entire session finished, there is obvious concern within Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, which provides engines to SHR, about the cause of the failure.
“The Hendrick engine guys wanted to know what I felt,” Harvick told Fox Sports 1. “This is a very rare occasion, the first one (blown engine) I’ve ever had (at SHR).
“The engine shop does a great job and I’m just glad it happened today. Our team is doing a great job and the car is handling good, so if you’re going to have something happen, this is a good place for it to happen because you can pass.”
Actually, Harvick suffered engine failure (finished 42nd) last spring at Texas Motor Speedway, one of two DNFs he incurred en route to winning the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.
Atlanta is where Harvick won his first career Sprint Cup race in 2001, three weeks after replacing the late Dale Earnhardt in the renumbered No. 29.
While he obviously would have liked to remain on the front row to start Sunday’s race, Harvick took the misfortune of starting at the back in stride.
“It’ll just make for a better show,” Harvick said with a smile.