Hem­ric beats play­off driv­ers

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By DAVE SKRETTA

Daniel Hem­ric gave his hopes of land­ing a Cup Se­ries ride for next sea­son some help by tak­ing his No. 8 Chevro­let to the pole for Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing at Kansas Speed­way on Sun­day. Hem­ric, who was told last month that Chil­dress would not pick up his op­tion for 2020, turned a lap of 178.047 mph to edge the re­tir­ing David Ra­gan dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing on Satur­day.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Daniel Hem­ric wasn’t ex­actly fired. David Ra­gan isn’t quite yet re­tired.

Yet the two off-the-radar driv­ers bested 12 play­off driv­ers and the rest of the Cup Se­ries field to land on the front row for Sun­day’s race at Kansas Speed­way. Hem­ric turned a fast lap of 178.047 mph to edge Ra­gan, who was fol­lowed by three driv­ers still in the cham­pi­onship hunt.

“I wasn’t too, too pumped up about the lap I ran, but as ev­ery car went by I felt like our odds in­creased,” said Hem­ric, who was told last month that Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing would not be pick­ing up his op­tion for 2020. “It’s just the pole award but it’s a big mo­ment for this race team.”

Chil­dress, who al­ready has picked Tyler Red­dick to take over the No. 8 Chevro­let, nev­er­the­less was there to give Hem­ric a hug when the fi­nal car fin­ished qual­i­fy­ing Satur­day.

It was the first ca­reer Cup Se­ries pole for Hem­ric, though he sat on the pole for the Xfin­ity race at Kansas last sea­son. And it gives him a big boost of con­fi­dence not only for the race but for his hopes of land­ing an­other ride in NASCAR’s pre­mier se­ries for next sea­son.

“My con­fi­dence hasn’t re­ally wa­vered one way or an­other,” Hem­ric said. “But in align­ing and po­si­tion­ing your­self for the fu­ture, this doesn’t hurt any.”

Ra­gan an­nounced in Au­gust he was step­ping away from Front Row Mo­tor­sports as a full­time driver.

“Hope we can be the fastest on Sun­day, too,” he said.

Round­ing out the top five were play­off driv­ers Ryan Blaney, Brad Ke­selowski and Kyle Lar­son, who was back in the car af­ter a bad wreck at Tal­ladega that left him with hurt ribs.

Among them, only Ke­selowski faces a bit of play­off peril.

Blaney won at Tal­ladega and Lar­son tri­umphed at Dover, lock­ing up their spots in the next round, but the Penske Rac­ing driver is sev­enth in points. His team­mate, de­fend­ing se­ries champ Joey Logano, is just two points be­hind him in the fi­nal spot above the cut­off line.

“It isn’t the top spot we wanted but it isn’t bad ei­ther,” Ke­selowski said. “We should be in a good spot. We think we have it di­aled in for to­mor­row.”

There is no prac­tice be­tween qual­i­fy­ing and the race, so sev­eral play­off con­tenders used set­ups that are ex­pected to be bet­ter in race con­di­tions. Martin Truex Jr. was the best of the rest in 11th, fol­lowed by Chase El­liott in 14th and Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports team­mate Alex Bow­man in 16th.

PAG­ING JOEY

De­spite his pre­car­i­ous play­off sit­u­a­tion, Logano qual­i­fied 29th and will have a lot of ground to make up Sun­day. He was last among the play­off driv­ers that made a qual­i­fy­ing lap. HAR­VICK PARKS

Kevin Har­vick never made it on the track for qual­i­fy­ing af­ter some in­spec­tion is­sues. The team failed once, then made it through the sec­ond time, only to in­spect the car it­self and find a piece that made it un­com­fort­able. The team rolled through in­spec­tion a third time and passed, but there was not enough time for Har­vick to get in line for a qual­i­fy­ing run.

As­so­ci­ated Press

UP FRONT — Daniel Hem­ric sits on the Kansas Speed­way pole award af­ter qual­i­fy­ing for a NASCAR Cup Se­ries auto race at Kansas Speed­way in Kansas City, Kan. on Satur­day.

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