By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) – Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch shared laughs side-by-side on a podium only days after they tangled on a bump-and-run on the track.
The front row starters were connected again when their cars failed post-qualifying inspection and the times were disallowed.
Harvick had turned a lap of 177.750 mph on Saturday to briefly win the pole and Busch was a few ticks behind him at Pocono but they'll start at the rear of the field.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez is the pole winner at Pocono. He's the first Mexican to win a pole in the Cup series.
But over 400 miles on a 2 1/2-mile triangle track, there's ample time for Harvick and Busch to race their way to the front.
“I've screwed it up here a lot,” Harvick said.
He could pin this screw up on his team.
Harvick, the 2014 Cup champion, has 43 career wins but has yet to win a Cup race at Pocono or Kentucky Speedway. Harvick is 0 for 8 at Kentucky and 0 for 35 at Pocono. He's getting close on the 2 1/2-mile triangle track – Harvick has two runner-up finishes and two fourths in his last four races.
“My guys put a lot of effort into coming to Kentucky and Pocono every year just because they know that the last two years, they have been the tracks that are still on the list,” Harvick said. “They know it would be nice to have that race completed.”
Busch then leaned over and needled Harvick that he'd have to win at Charlotte on the new road course to complete the series sweep. Busch has won at every active Cup track on the schedule but some critics believe the milestone won't count until he wins on the new layout.
“That's fair,” Harvick said.
Harvick had been a favorite to get that coveted checkered flag in the No. 4 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. He leads the series with six wins and is coming off a win last week at New Hampshire.
He's made a habit of reeling off victories: Harvick won three straight early in the season and won two straight races in May.
Harvick used a zipped to the front with a textbook bump-and-run on Busch in the waning laps to win last week at New Hampshire.
Busch won the Trucks Series race on Saturday then hit 177.434 in qualifying and joined Harvick on the front row. Busch has five wins this season in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing and has formed with Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. the Big Three of NASCAR. The trio have won 15 of 20 Cup races.
“You have to embrace (the nickname) at this point,” Harvick said. “A lot of people show up in the grandstands wanting to see him race me and me race with him. Martin's right in there, as well. I'd rather be in the Big Three than not. I'd rather be winning races and in the conversation because I've been on the other side and it's way less fun.”
Suarez, winless in 56 career races, had never started better than third in his two-year Cup career. Suarez laughed when he said he was reading race data on the 4 and 18 to figure out how they were faster than him when he found out he was a pole winner. He's 20th in the standings with four top-10 finishes and would likely need a win to make the playoffs.
“We know we can run well and run in the front,” Suarez said. “The results haven't been there but this is a good thing for us.”
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is set to make his 600th career Cup start.
Busch and Harvick were impressed that Johnson has started every race since 2002 – while their streaks have been interrupted by suspensions.
“I missed one race. I had to cook hot dogs and watch from the parking lot,” Harvick said.
“I had one of those,” Busch said to laughter.
But there was little else funny at Pocono where Johnson joined Busch and Harvick among the whopping 13 car that failed inspection and will start at the rear of the field in order of owner points.
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