LONG POND — Shortly after completing the fastest lap in qualifying Saturday at Pocono Raceway, Kevin Harvick talked about messing up.
The real gaffe came a bit later. And he wasn’t alone.
Harvick’s No. 4 Ford failed post-qualifying inspection. So did the No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch, who placed second. So instead of two of NASCAR’s most dominant drivers starting at the front of the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, Harvick will start 29th and Busch 28th. The green flag is scheduled for just after 2:30 p.m.
Daniel Suarez, who was third in qualifying, will inherit the pole. Denny Hamlin will start second. Harvick and Busch departed the post-qualifying press conference before the infractions were announced.
Suarez made NASCAR history on Saturday, becoming the first Mexican driver to secure pole position for a Cup series race.
NASCAR said Harvick’s car failed the body scan during the post-qualifying inspection, while there was an issue with the chassis on Busch’s car. Eleven others failed inspections, mainly due to the body scan: Kyle Larson; Joey Logano; William Byron; Clint Bowyer; Ryan Blaney; Aric Almirola; Jimmie Johnson; Paul Menard; Austin Dillon; Bubba Wallace; and Kasey Kahne. Those drivers will fall in behind Busch and Harvick based on owners points.
Larson was fourth fastest in qualifying. Logano was fifth.
Shortly after Harvick thought he won the pole, he talked about his then pole-winning lap around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. He and Busch were the only drivers topping 177 mph.
“I’ve screwed up here a lot to tell you the truth,” Harvick said. “It’s really hard here to have a fast car and put it together for all three rounds (of qualifying). I’ve not put three corners together several times here. The car is always faster than I am here for sure. To be able to put together one lap is definitely exciting. It’s a good start to the weekend.”
Well, it was. Now Harvick will try to win at Pocono — one of two tracks where he hasn’t won in his 630-race Cup career — starting at the rear. The other track is Kentucky Speedway, which held its first a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in 2011.
“My guys put in a lot of effort coming to Kentucky and Pocono every year because they know they are two tracks that are on the list,” said Harvick, who has four second-place finishes in 35 races at Pocono. “They know it would be nice to have that list completed. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and see what happens (Sunday).”
In all likelihood, it probably won’t take Harvick or Busch too long to sift their ways through the 40-car field. The two, along with Martin Truex Jr., have been tagged with the moniker The Big 3 because of their dominance this season. In 20 Cup races thus far, Harvick has won six times, Busch five times and Truex four.
Noticeably absent from this season’s winner list is Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has 83 career wins, including a sweep at Pocono in 2004, but has gone 43 races without a victory. He’ll start 35th.
“I think a top five is probably in the realistic standpoint,” Johnson said prior to qualifying, “but you never know. That is the optimism that I refuse to lose. I still know I can win these races. That hasn’t changed, that hasn’t gone anywhere.
“We just need to get the whole package together.”
NASCAR – Gander Outdoors 400 Lineup
At Pocono Raceway
Long Pond, Pa.
(Car number in parentheses)
1. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 176.988 mph.
2. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 176.429.
3. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 176.391.
4. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 176.298.
5. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 176.115.
6. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 176.084.
7. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 175.363.
8. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 175.247.
9. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 174.764.
10. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 174.622.
11. (6) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 174.236.
12. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 173.110.
13. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 173.000.
14. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 172.685.
15. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 172.500.
16. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 172.278.
17. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 172.022.
18. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 171.373.
19. (96) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 168.814.
20. (23) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 168.783.
21. (72) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 168.710.
22. (15) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 168.045.
23. (99) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 167.389.
24. (00) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 166.741.
25. (7) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 165.819.
26. (51) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 165.789.
27. (66) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 164.678.
28. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 0.000.
29. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 0.000.
30. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 0.000.
31. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 0.000.
32. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 0.000.
33. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 0.000.
34. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 0.000.
35. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 0.000.
36. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 0.000.
37. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 0.000.
38. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 0.000.
39. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 0.000.
40. (95) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 0.000.
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar