By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
INDIANAPOLIS -- Suddenly the ace qualifier at Stewart-Haas Racing this year, Kevin Harvick dominated Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the pole for Sunday's Crown Royal 400 in track-record speed.
Fastest in all three rounds of knockout qualifying, Harvick earned his fourth Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at the Brickyard and the 10th of his career.
Harvick established his credentials early in the first 25-minute session, covering the 2.5-mile distance in 47.647 seconds (188.889 mph), shattering the previous record speed of 187.531 mph set by Ryan Newman last year.
The record speed of his first lap surprised the driver of the No. 4 SHR Chevrolet.
"After the first lap, I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying," Harvick said. "I wasn't really expecting to have the car run that fast. From there they are all looking at you, 'All right, if you screw this up, it's on you, buddy.' "
In the second round, Harvick remained the only driver to top 188 mph, posting a lap at 188.281 mph to pace the 10-minute session. No other driver could reach even 187 mph in Round 2.
In the final five-minute round, Harvick ran 188.470 mph to win the pole convincingly over Jeff Gordon, who will share the front row after a lap at 187.770 mph. Brad Keselowski (186.893 mph) qualified third, followed by 2013 Brickyard winner Ryan Newman (186.765 mph) and Brian Vickers (186.455 mph).
The last time Harvick won the pole at Indy, in 2003, he won the race, and he acknowledged the advantages of starting up front.
"You can overcome a lot of things with your track position here," Harvick said. "To have the first pit stall, to have clean air to start the race-usually your problems will be a lot less than they are in traffic when you're out front. Hopefully, we can put together a whole day.
Nor is the history of the Brickyard lost on Harvick.
"There's Daytona, and then there's nothing quite like this place that we come to," he said. "It's a unique race track with a lot of things that have to come together, a lot of history, and I'm excited to be here."
Keselowski certainly took notice of Harvick's lap times and gave them their due.
"It's always scary when Kevin's fast in qualifying," Keselowski said.
NOTES: Aric Almirola hit the outside wall during the first round and went to a backup car. Accordingly, he will start Sunday's race from the rear of the field. ... Juan Pablo Montoya qualified eighth in Team Penske's third entry, the No. 12 Ford. ... Brett Moffit, David Stremme and Matt Crafton failed to make the 43-car field.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying
Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
1. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 188.470 mph.
2. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 187.770 mph.
3. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 186.893 mph.