KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kevin Harvick joked that the intra-team competition at Stewart-Haas Racing is marked by a whole lot of trash talk, and that Clint Bowyer usually says so much it's tough to get a dig in.
Harvick had the final word Friday night.
He scored his third pole of the season to lead a Stewart-Haas Racing team sweep of the top four spots in qualifying for Saturday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway.
Harvick, the defending race winner, turned a lap of 179.217 mph Friday night in the return of single-car qualifying to Kansas. That was enough to edge Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez, who locked down the rest of the front two rows for the 400-mile race.
"You can see a vast improvement across the board with our cars this week," Harvick said. "It started at Texas, that was the last stop on this 550 (horsepower) package for us. We were off at the beginning of the year and all they've done is work and work and work, and this is a good moment for Stewart-Haas Racing in general."
Harvick has been on the pole five times at Kansas, including last season, and he has three wins and three runner-up finishes at the track. He's been eighth or better in eight of the past 11 races at the mile-and-a-half oval, which is getting its first taste of NASCAR's new rules package.
Most drivers expect track position to be crucial, and Harvick was among those who said after a pair of practice sessions that cars in clean air at the front handled better and were faster.
In other words, good luck working your way through the field.
"It's not as good as you can be," Bowyer said with a wink and nod, "but my damn teammate knocked us off that spot. But I was wide open. I don't know what he did that made him faster."
Harvick had already won four times by the time the series hit Kansas last season, but Stewart-Haas has been playing catch-up to Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske all season. Martin Truex Jr. has won two of the pasta three races for JGR, including Monday's rain-delayed race at Dover.
Chase Elliott qualified fifth for Hendrick Motorsports, while Truex was sixth. William Byron, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10.
BOWYER'S BID: Not only is Bowyer still searching for his first win at Kansas, the track the Emporia native considers his home turf, he is also doing it with his 40th birthday on the horizon. He joked about his "gray hairs" with Truex after his qualifying run.
"The biggest thing is you come here, you just want to run good," said Bowyer, who raced late models at nearby Lakeside Speedway. "I think our efforts are really starting to show."
BREXTON'S CRASH: Kyle Busch said his 3-year-old son, Brexton, was doing well after crashing an ATV while riding with friends and spending a night in the hospital.
Busch said he taught Brexton how to slow down in corners, but he hit one too fast and went for a spill. The boy was knocked out for "about 10 seconds," Busch said, and "the scariest thing you can ever see is your son laying there lifeless."
Doctors told Busch and his wife, Samantha, that Brexton was fortunate to be wearing a helmet.
"There's nothing else like it. I don't wish it on anybody," said Busch, who will start 13th on Saturday night. "I certainly don't want to ever experience it again."