Kevin Harvick wins Cup pole at Las Vegas

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Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, claiming the top spot with a speed of 180.517 mph.

The top five was completed by Denny Hamlin (180.457 mph), Kyle Busch (179.706), Austin Dillon (179.509) and Daniel Hemric (179.480).

David Ragan qualified sixth.

Alex Bowman appeared to take the top qualifying spot, but NASCAR ruled he did not cross the start-finish line in before the clock ran out of time. He will start 11th.

The pole is Harvick’s 26th. He has earned at least one pole in each of the last seven years.

“The fastest car in qualifying trim is fourth,” Harvick told Fox Sports 1. “I told them before we qualified that the fastest car won’t get the pole today. In the final round it’s going to come down to where you’re at. It’s definitely different. … We were able to run the bottom coming to second lap there and that got us to the start-finish line just in time to make it. Definitely a little luck involved there.”

The qualifying session, largely defined by drafting due to the new rules package, saw the majority of eligible cars in each round take to the track all at once.

“Whatever the rules wind up being, we’re going to try to be the best team,” Harvick said in the media center. “I think that’s going to be the healthiest mindset. “Whatever the rules are, we’re not going to complain about them. We just want to win.”

Drivers waited until the closing minutes in the final two sessions to leave pit road, with drivers not wanting to be the first car leading the draft.

“You’re trying to do the best you can to put yourself in the right position, whatever that position might be,” Hamlin told FS1. “We really don’t know. We’re trying to figure that out. And then also leave yourself enough time to get a couple of laps, especially in the final round.”

Hamlin added, “We did a good job of drafting there and put ourselves in a good position to have a shot.”

The majority of the field made two runs in the second round with Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Paul Menard, Michael McDowell and Clint Bowyer the first five drivers to not advance.

“It’s different,” Blaney told FS1. “It’s really the draft you get. It’s a crap shoot at the end of pit road, no one wants to be first and you just hope you kind of distance yourself right to the car in front of you enough to pull you along. I have nothing great to say. I used to have fun on Fridays and that wasn’t very fun. Holding it wide open isn’t my thing.”

Among the drivers who failed to advance out of the first round were Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.

Click here for qualifying results.