INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The season-long rivalry between Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske heads into the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Kevin Harvick will try to crash their party.
Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski swept the top three spots in qualifying, setting up what could be a showdown between the most dominant teams so far this season.
Harvick, who picked up his fourth pole of the season Sunday, already has two wins this season but was in the mix for several other victories with his new Stewart-Haas Racing team. Gordon is the Sprint Cup points leader and has been a model of consistency all year for Hendrick Motorsports, and Penske has gotten three wins from Keselowski.
"I think that we certainly look at all the Hendrick cars and the Stewart-Haas cars ... and Penske, to me, is the team to beat outside of what we have," Gordon said. "I'm pretty sure all those groups have their best stuff here."
Keselowski, third in the standings behind Hendrick drivers Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., didn't think Saturday was a true indicator of how the Brickyard — or the rest of the season — will play out.
"When you think you really understand what's going on, you never know what somebody else has in their hand — much like if you were playing a game of poker," Keselowski said. "We think that we have the two strongest hands with Penske and Hendrick, and certainly that's been the case to this date in the season, but you just don't know what's out there."
Harvick, consistently fast all season, knows exactly what he's got and what Stewart-Haas brought to Indy.
"It's time to get into Chase form, and this is where it all starts," said Harvick.
He once again dominated a NASCAR qualifying session, setting a Indianapolis track record with his pole-winning run of 188.470 mph. Harvick beat the track record of 187.531 set last year by Ryan Newman, who won from the pole.
Harvick, who had never before won more than two poles in a season, will try Sunday to win the prestigious Brickyard for the second time in his career. His first win came in 2003 when he drove for Richard Childress.
It was clear quickly that Stewart-Haas came prepared for the Brickyard with some of its quickest cars. Harvick was fastest in all three rounds of NASCAR's knockout qualifying session, and teammates Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch also finished in the top-seven.
Only Danica Patrick failed to make it into the final round, but still qualified 14th to put all the SHR Chevrolets near the front of the field.
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