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Atlanta NASCAR: Kevin Harvick grabs sixth pole of 2014

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet, Atlanta NASCAR 2014

Kevin Harvick claimed his sixth pole position of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season in qualifying for Sunday's Atlanta Motor Speedway night race.

Amid the focus on the return of Harvick's boss and team-mate Tony Stewart to competition three weeks after his involvement in the sprint car incident in which Kevin Ward Jr died, Harvick breezed to the top spot in final qualifying with a lap of 29.118 seconds in his Stewart-Haas Chevrolet.

Stewart himself made it through to the pole shootout and took 12th on the grid for his first race back.

Brad Keselowski had to settle for second for Penske, 0.029s down on Harvick, while the 2012 champion's team-mate Joey Logano couldn't make it into the pole shootout for once and starts 14th.

With only two races until the Chase field is set, four drivers yet to take an all-important win this season filled rows two and three.

Rookie Kyle Larson got within 0.079s of another pole in his Ganassi Chevrolet as he claimed third, followed by Ryan Newman, Q2 pacesetter Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.

Kenseth's points tally - which would place him fifth in a standard championship at present - is ample enough to get him into the Chase regardless of who wins at Atlanta and Richmond, while Newman currently holds the second points-based slot among the 16 Chase contenders, narrowly ahead of Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle.

Larson is fighting to inch back into the Chase cut-off following his costly crash at Michigan, but Truex's only hope of making the title race is to take his first win for Furniture Row in the next week.

Aric Almirola was quickest in opening qualifying and will share row four with Kyle Busch.

They start ahead of Hendrick's lead contenders Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, with neither Jimmie Johnson nor Dale Earnhardt Jr too concerned to be 16th and 20th on the grid respectively.

Nationwide frontrunner Ty Dillon - brother of Cup rookie Austin - is making his top-division debut in a fourth entry for his grandfather Richard Childress's team this weekend. The 22-year-old qualified 29th.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                  Time     Gap
 1.  Kevin Harvick       Stewart-Haas Chevrolet    29.118s
 2.  Brad Keselowski     Penske Ford               29.170s  +0.052s
 3.  Kyle Larson         Ganassi Chevrolet         29.197s  +0.079s
 4.  Ryan Newman         Childress Chevrolet       29.272s  +0.154s
 5.  Matt Kenseth        Joe Gibbs Toyota          29.334s  +0.216s
 6.  Martin Truex Jr     Furniture Row Chevrolet   29.346s  +0.228s
 7.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford                29.391s  +0.273s
 8.  Kyle Busch          Joe Gibbs Toyota          29.409s  +0.291s
 9.  Jeff Gordon         Hendrick Chevrolet        29.419s  +0.301s
10.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet        29.440s  +0.322s
11.  Carl Edwards        Roush Fenway Ford         29.480s  +0.362s
12.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet    29.504s  +0.386s
13.  Austin Dillon       Childress Chevrolet       29.308s  Round 2
14.  Joey Logano         Penske Ford               29.318s  Round 2
15.  Jamie McMurray      Ganassi Chevrolet         29.358s  Round 2
16.  Jimmie Johnson      Hendrick Chevrolet        29.363s  Round 2
17.  Denny Hamlin        Joe Gibbs Toyota          29.389s  Round 2
18.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford         29.410s  Round 2
19.  Brian Vickers       Waltrip Toyota            29.422s  Round 2
20.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet        29.509s  Round 2
21.  Clint Bowyer        Waltrip Toyota            29.536s  Round 2
22.  Kurt Busch          Stewart-Haas Chevrolet    29.590s  Round 2
23.  AJ Allmendinger     JTG Daugherty Chevrolet   29.604s  Round 2
24.  Casey Mears         Germain Chevrolet         29.655s  Round 2
25.  Michael Annett      Baldwin Chevrolet         29.489s  Round 1
26.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr  Roush Fenway Ford         29.505s  Round 1
27.  Danica Patrick      Stewart-Haas Chervolet    29.529s  Round 1
28.  Mike Bliss          Baldwin Chevrolet         29.571s  Round 1
29.  Ty Dillon           Childress Chevrolet       29.595s  Round 1
30.  Alex Bowman         BK Toyota                 29.597s  Round 1
31.  Justin Allgaier     HScott Chevrolet          29.665s  Round 1
32.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford                29.704s  Round 1
33.  Paul Menard         Childress Chevrolet       29.808s  Round 1
34.  Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota              29.816s  Round 1
35.  Brett Moffitt       Robinson Toyota           29.833s  Round 1
36.  Josh Wise           Parsons Chevrolet         29.844s  Round 1
37.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford            29.893s  Round 1
38.  David Ragan         Front Row Ford            29.998s  Round 1
39.  Ryan Truex          BK Toyota                 30.022s  Round 1
40.  Cole Whitt          BK Toyota                 30.032s  Round 1
41.  JJ Yeley            Go FAS Ford               30.209s  Round 1
42.  Landon Cassill      Hillman Chevrolet         30.284s  Round 1
43.  Reed Sorenson       Baldwin Chevrolet         30.321s  Round 1

Did not qualify:

     Michael McDowell    Leavine Ford              30.025s  Round 1
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