Thunderstorms forced the postponement of Sprint Cup qualifying Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, requiring NASCAR to use its rulebook to determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s opening playoff race.
NASCAR determined which drivers made the 43-car field based off 2015 qualifying attempts, and then set the starting grid using speeds from Friday’s lone practice.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick, whose speed of 188.317 mph was fastest in the 85-minute morning session, was awarded the pole position for the MyAFibRisk.com 400.
“I am most proud of my team for having a fast race car to come to the track — having a plan and doing all the things they did to pay attention to the weather,” Harvick said. “They put a lot emphasis on trying to lay a fast lap down just like everybody to get a good starting position with the way that the weather was.”
Joey Logano will line up alongside Harvick on the front row, followed by Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon. Of the top five starters, all but Dillon are among the 16 drivers participating in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff.
“We haven’t been in race trim yet, we stayed in qualifying trim all day and I felt like it was qualifying during practice,” Logano said. “We were really trying to top the charts. We really felt like that was where we would be starting at the end of practice. Obviously this storm is huge and we didn’t have a shot in hell of making qualifying happen.”
Due to a forecast calling for a high probability of precipitation, the majority of teams elected to focus almost entirely on mock qualifying runs during practice in an attempt to secure a favorable starting position. That strategy paid dividends when heavy rain began falling around 4:00 p.m. CT. NASCAR cancelled qualifying at 5:00 p.m. CT.
Chicagoland is the third qualifying washout of the season. All three rainouts have cost Ryan Blaney a spot on the starting lineup, as his Wood Brothers Racing team is only running a part-time schedule. Blaney had posted the ninth-fastest time in practice Friday.
Michael McDowell and Travis Kvapil also failed to qualify.
“What a real bummer for Ryan Blaney,” Logano said. “That is a big heartbreaker for him. For the rest of us locked in the race, it doesn’t really affect much.”