BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Kevin Harvick made Michigan International Speedway's latest track record look routine.
In what is becoming an annual occurrence at MIS, Harvick pushed the track's qualifying mark a little bit higher Friday, winning the pole for this weekend's Sprint Cup race at 204.557 mph. Harvick's pole-winning speed was the fastest since Bill Elliott set the record of 212.809 mph at Talladega Superspeedway in April 1987.
"This is one of those racetracks where you're running fast, but you really can't put it all in perspective, I guess, until you hit something," Harvick said. "It's so wide, it's so fast and so smooth, but you don't really get that huge sensation of speed."
Drivers have broken 200 mph with regularity at Michigan since the track was repaved before the 2012 season. Marcos Ambrose had a speed of 203.241 in 2012, the first time anyone won a pole at over 200 mph since Elliott did it before horsepower-sapping restrictor plates were introduced at Talladega and Daytona.
Last August, Joey Logano increased the track record to 203.949.
Harvick was even faster in winning his third pole of the year and ninth of his career. Points leader Jeff Gordon was second, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third. The top three qualifiers for Sunday's 400-mile race were all in Chevrolets.
NASCAR overhauled its qualifying process before this season, switching to a knockout format similar to Formula One and IndyCar. NASCAR now uses three rounds of qualifying at tracks 1 1/4 miles in length or larger. The entire field has 25 minutes to post their fastest single lap and the top 24 advance to the second round.
The second segment lasts 10 minutes, and the fastest 12 advance to a final, 5-minute round.
"This format has obviously been good for me to kind of, I guess, creep up on it as you go through the sessions," Harvick said. "A fast car really solves a lot of problems."