TALLADEGA, Ala. – Kevin Harvick Inc. continued its restrictor-plate mastery by sweeping the front row during qualifying for Saturday’s running of the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Elliott Sadler captured the pole position during qualifying Friday with a speed of 179.558, edging out KHI teammate Clint Bowyer, who turned a fast lap of 179.373. At the season-opening Nationwide race at Daytona International Speedway, KHI cars finished first and second and sat on the pole as well.
“There’s no secret how good these restrictor-plate cars have been the last couple of years,” Sadler said. “It shows a lot of hard work by Kevin Harvick and everybody on his race team.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has had plenty of restrictor-plate success of his own over the years, qualified third with a run of 179.115. Earnhardt has started only two of the first six Nationwide races this season but has finished in the top-five both times, including a fourth-place showing at Daytona.
“The Nationwide Series is fun to race in. I enjoy the races,” Earnhardt said. “The races I don’t run, it’s a weird feeling to not be in the Nationwide race. There have been times where I’ll sit there and watch that race and about halfway through it I’m thinking, ‘Why in the world didn’t I do something to be in the race.’ ”
Jamie McMurray will start fourth, followed by Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in fifth, Carl Edwards sixth, Joey Logano seventh, Michael Annett eighth, Jason Leffler ninth and Aric Almirola 10th.
Kevin Harvick qualified 11th, current Nationwide points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 14th, defending Aaron’s 312 winner Brad Keselowski 16th and Alabama native Mike Harmon 28th.
Sadler is running fulltime in the Nationwide Series this season and is eligible for the championship. He finished 38th in the season-opener at Daytona but motors into the Aaron’s 312 off three consecutive top-five finishes, propelling him into fourth place in the point standings.
“We are definitely going in the right direction,” Sadler said. “Finishing 38th at Daytona put us in a huge hole. We were fast (in the next two races), we just couldn’t dig ourselves out of that hole. And then we put three top-fives together in a row.
“We have a really good race team. I just want to be consistent enough to get our team back in contention to where we need to be.”
Driver introductions for the Aaron’s 312 are scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. CDT Saturday. The green flag for the 117-lap race is set to fly at approximately 2 p.m.