Kevin Harvick had no problems handling the new racing surface at Texas Motor Speedway, winning qualifying on Friday afternoon. He’ll start in the pole position for the first time in 29 starts at TMS.
Harvick is hoping that leads to his first Cup victory in the Lone Star State. He’s won five Xfinity Series races and a truck series at the track, but has settled for runner up twice in Cup events.
“One of three or four tracks I haven’t won on,” Harvick said. “Like I told [TMS president Eddie Gossage] last night, I said, ‘You finally got rid of that crappy asphalt so hopefully I have a better chance now.’”
Harvick had a qualifying lap time of 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph. Fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney will start in the second position after posting a time of 27.270 seconds and 198.020 mph.
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Harvick’s teammate, Clint Bowyer, will start third.
But the new racing surface and configuration wasn’t kind to other drivers.
Four drivers had issues during practice, beginning with Denny Hamlin who spun out in Turns 1 and 2 on his second practice lap. Hamlin was among the first three drivers to test the new surface.
TMS underwent about a $5 million project to repave the track and re-profile it. They reduced the banking in Turns 1 and 2 by four degrees and widened the racing surface from 60 to 80 feet.
That section also caused issues for Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott. Erik Jones wrecked coming out of Turn 4.
During qualifying, six-time TMS winner Jimmie Johnson spun out and didn’t make a second attempt.
“It behaved like new pavement,” Gossage said. “We worked rubber into the track as much as we could, but nothing simulates the real thing. Hopefully we’ll see through practice, Xfinity racing, we’ll see the groove widen out. But it behaved like new pavement.”
TMS will continue to do its best to work more rubber into the track, and are expected to run its “Texas Tire Monster” after the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.