Carl Edwards captured the pole for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 with a speed of 137.980 mph, completing the New Hampshire Motor Speedway sweep Friday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also set the fast time in qualifying for the July Sprint Cup race at the one-mile track.
“It is tough and this place is simple, so it’s pretty straightforward, but one little mistake here or there can cost you a lot,” Edwards said. “I really had to step it up. I almost didn’t make the third round and had to actually kind of get myself going there that last round.”
Joining Edwards on the front row is Kevin Harvick, the defending series champion who finds himself entering the second Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff race in a precarious position.
Harvick crashed and finished 42nd after contact with Jimmie Johnson last week at Chicagoland Speedway and likely needs to win either Sunday at New Hampshire or next week at Dover International Speedway to avoid elimination when the Chase field is cut from 16 drivers to 12.
“I think you still have to go out with the mentality of trying to win a race,” Harvick said. “I think everybody around us knows that. I think they are very aware of the aggressive nature that we need to go after that win.”
Harvick declined to say whether he’s still holding a grudge or would retaliate against Johnson, whom he struck in the drivers’ motor coach lot following Sunday’s race.
“I just do what we have to do to focus on what we need to do looking forward,” Harvick said. “We are not going to use (the media) to make threats. I can do that myself.”
Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski qualified third and fourth, respectively, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon completing positions 5-10. Of the top-10 qualifiers, only Larson is not a Chase participant.
Ryan Preece (37th) and B.J. McLeod (39th) each qualified for their first race in NASCAR’s premier division. Travis Kvapil was the lone driver who failed to qualify.