FORT WORTH, Texas — Tony Stewart will start from the pole for the first time since October 2012 as he leads the Duck Commander 500 field to green Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Green flag is scheduled for 3:16 p.m. ET.
Stweart’s biggest competition might come from within the Stewart-Haas Racing organization. Kevin Harvick set the track record in the opening round of qualifying and was the fastest in 10-lap average speed in the final practice Saturday.
Here’s a look at the Duck Commander 500 lineup:
1. Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet — Winning his first pole in his past 39 starts, Stewart has two wins at Texas, including the November 2011 race. I wouldn’t have predicted that, but check our picks posted Thursday and see which driver I picked to win this race (hint: he drives the No. 14).
2. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske No. 2 Ford — Made noise a year ago at Texas for ripping NASCAR after it had confiscated his rear suspension. Could make noise Sunday for a different reason.
3. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet — Harvick broke the track record with a lap of 198.282 mph and has looked as the fastest car in practice. He just needs to lead six laps Sunday to eclipse his career total laps led in 22 Texas starts.
4. Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing No. 16 Ford — Could Roush Fenway teams finally have found what they need at 1.5-mile tracks? Two of their three cars are in the top-five.
5. Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 Ford — Edwards has three career victories at Texas. Hope he has stretched so he can do a backflip.
6. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota — Hamlin could have fans cheering for him in Texas. The program that includes his March of Dimes paint scheme will have Cowboys tight end Jason Witten hanging out with the team in addition to driving the pace car.
7. Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford — Easily his best qualifying start for his third Cup race this year.
8. Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet — Quietly having a good season as he sits 10th in the standings.
9. Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Ford — Could this be his third top-five finish of the season? This team right now would be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup; that’s how good a start it has had this year.
10. Joey Logano, Team Penske No. 22 Ford — Still worried about tires. So are they being conservative? Well, this is his worst starting spot since Daytona.
11. Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet — Crashed in practice thanks to a tire issue and is in a backup car for the race. Good enough in qualifying that he should feel OK. The fact he won last week at Martinsville should help, too.
12. Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet — Has Texas A&M paint scheme for this weekend. So he’ll have a lot of fans cheering for him. And a lot against him. In other words, pretty normal day for Gordon.
13. Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet — Just two top-10s in his 15 starts at Texas.
14. Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet — Actually ran the Cup race here last November and finished 23rd. Should be better Sunday.
15. Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet — McMurray was third at Texas back in November 2008 but hasn’t had a good finish at TMS since then.
16. Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet — It’s been a tough week for Johnson with his brother-in-law’s tragic skydiving accident. A six-time Cup champion, Johnson knows how to focus.
17. Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford — Almirola has had one of those good-not-great seasons. This qualifying effort would be another one of those times.
18. Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet — Truex started 12th at the past two intermediate track races. Must find some speed.
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet — Feels like his car takes a few laps to come into form. Unfortunately, most passing at Texas comes in the first few laps after a restart.
20. Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet — Thinks he had a 24-hour bug that had him in the infield care center Friday. Expects to be able to go the distance Sunday.
21. Casey Mears, Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet — Dropped out of the top-20 in points with a 24th last week at Martinsville. He could very well get himself back into the top-20 after Texas.
22. Justin Allgaier, HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet — Best starting spot of the season for Allgaier.
23. Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota — Vickers could be upset with his starting position. And then he could look at his rear-view mirror at the start of the race and see teammate Clint Bowyer.
24. Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Chevrolet — Her three teammates start in the top-12. Makes one wonder if she can run the same setup with similar success.
25. Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing No. 15 Toyota — He has Willie’s Duck Diner on his hood. Oh, we’ll just let you make the Duck Dynasty-Clint Bowyer jokes yourself.
26. Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota — Started sixth here in November. How in the world does he fall that much? He should ask Kyle Busch, who started fifth at Texas in November and will start 29th on Sunday.
27. Michael Annett, Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet — Not a bad qualifying run for TBR at a downforce track.
28. Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Ford — After failing to qualifying at Daytona, this team solidly made the five races it has attempted since then.
29. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota — Remember that story on this site on how Busch has conquered Texas? It wasn’t meant to jinx him.
30. Alex Bowman, BK Racing No. 23 Toyota — Posted on Twitter he would give away a Camry if he wins the Sprint All-Star vote. While he doesn’t have much of a chance of winning that vote, still an interesting way to drive attention.
31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing No. 31 Ford — Could look over at the start and see Kasey Kahne next to him and get the wrong feeling that they’re near the front.
32. Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet — Possibly the best team that has yet to be able to figure out this qualifying system. He failed to make the second round in each of the past three weeks.
33. AJ Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet — Has an eighth and 11th in the past two races but Texas is looking like a road bump for him as far as momentum.
34. David Reutimann, Front Row Motorsports No. 35 Ford — Had failed to qualify in two of the past three races, so he’s happy he’ll get to start Sunday.
35. Dave Blaney, Randy Humphrey Racing No. 77 Ford — Had failed to qualify first four races he had entered, so he’s already won this weekend.
36. Parker Kligerman, Swan Racing No. 30 Toyota — A master of the art of bad luck, Kligerman just needs to get to the finish.
37. Travis Kvapil, Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford — Has finished 33rd in each of the past three races. Weird.
38. Reed Sorenson, Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36 Chevrolet — Looking for a little bit of speed.
39. David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford — Made a few drivers angry at Martinsville. Probably won’t be getting any breaks from them for a while.
40. Landon Cassill, Mike Hillman Racing No. 40 Chevrolet — The fact he can get in on owner points despite having missed two races this year shows that the team has done something right.
41. Josh Wise, Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 Chevrolet — Looking for first lead-lap finish of 2014 but probably won’t get it Sunday.
42. Cole Whitt, Swan Racing No. 26 Toyota — Has four top-30 finishes in six races this year. For growing team, that’s acceptable.
43. David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford — In a backup car after a crash Friday, hopes his team can find a better setup for the race.