Kevin Harvick overcame what he chalked up to driver error in the first session of Friday night's Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka Qualifying Night at Atlanta Motor Speedway to earn his sixth pole position of the season with a lap of 29.118 seconds (190.398 mph)
Harvick will pace the field for Sunday's Oral-B USA 500 flanked by Brad Keselowski. Rookie Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth round out the top 5.
"The first run wasn't very good due to the driver not doing a very good job, but luckily they bring fast enough cars to where even with the big mistake that I made we were able to make it to round two," Harvick said. "I didn't think I had gotten everything out of the car on the last run so I was kind of nervous as to whether that was going to be good enough, but in the end it was."
Harvick was only 16th fastest in the first round of qualifying, a 25-minute session in which the top 24 drivers advance. After adjusting his line, he shot up the speed chart to second in the next session, a 10-lap event that determines the final 12 drivers aiming for the pole in the final 5-minute session.
"I felt like I had made a mistake the first run and never really got in the rhythm … and (teammate Tony Stewart) told me to go back to the way I was practicing and used to going around the race track," Harvick said. "So I felt like my car was probably going to be better down there, but in the end it was definitely the right decision. He was a big help."
In fact, Stewart's help propelled Harvick to his sixth pole position this season, an unbelievable number after posting only six career poles in his 13 previous Sprint Cup seasons.
"The qualifying stuff has obviously been a major focus of what we've done," Harvick said. "I think it's kept us in a lot of races where we were off a little bit."
Harvick is hoping his qualifying effort is enough to give him an edge when the green flag falls for Sunday's Oral-B USA 500, but his competitors are hoping for much the same. After falling just short of the pole Friday night, Keselowski hoped his fast car would keep him in contention for the big event.
"(That was) by far the best qualifying effort I've ever had here," Keselowski said. "I wish it would have been one more spot instead of second, a first place, but that's the way it goes, and maybe we can find that one more spot Sunday night."
Racing action continues Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 to benefit Feed The Children at 7:30 p.m. The weekend will culminate Sunday night with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500, also slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. Great seats are available for both nights of racing action by calling (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visiting atlantamotorspeedway.com.