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