NASCAR Cup: Alex Bowman claims first-career pole at Phoenix
Alex Bowman celebrates his first-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole at Phoenix International Speedway on Nov. 11, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Alex Bowman will make his next-to-last start in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as a fill-in driver for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. from the pole at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday. With a 25.619-second/140.521 mph lap in the third of three rounds of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying on Friday for Sunday’s Can-Am 500, Bowman claimed his first-career Sprint Cup pole start.
“Man, it’s amazing,” Bowman said. “We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice. I don’t really know where that came from, but I just can’t thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports enough. To do this in Phoenix, so close to home, means so much to me. We have had such fast race cars. We haven’t had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot.”
Kyle Larson qualified second to start next to Bowman on the front row for Sunday’s race, and Bowman’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott qualified third to give Chevrolet a sweep of the top-three positions on the starting grid.
“I probably over-drove the entry of (turn) three maybe a little bit and didn’t get wide-open soon enough off of (turn) four,” Larson said. “My owner is going to come over here and tell me I should have got the pole, but he was giving us a hard time before qualifying, saying we always win these practices, but we aren’t winning anything when it comes down to it. Second is not too bad with the Target Chevy; it is my best qualifying effort here at Phoenix. We have always qualified well here, just inching our way towards a pole. Would have liked to have gotten a pole, but second is not bad.”
Logano qualified fourth, the highest of the eight Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers, to start next to Larson in row two. Six of the Chasers advanced to round three in qualifying to claim top-12 starting positions. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick qualified fifth and sixth to start in the third row, while Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch qualified 10th through 12th.
Logano and Harvick led the way in the first two rounds of qualifying, with Harvick posting the fastest lap of 25.671 seconds/139.746 mph in round one and Logano turning in a 25.645-second/140.378 mph lap in the second round.
The remaining two Chase drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch got to the second round of qualifying, but that was as far as they got. Johnson qualified 17th and Busch just barely cracked the top-20, qualifying 19th.
Meanwhile, Friday got off to a bumpy start for former Chaser Martin Truex Jr. and never improved. After wrecking in practice earlier in the day, Truex went to a backup car. His No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team had difficulty getting the backup through inspection, though, and as a result, Truex failed to make a qualifying attempt. He’ll start 40th on Sunday.
Below, is the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway:
Row 1 — Alex Bowman (No. 88 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 2 — Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford)
Row 3 — Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota), Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet)
Row 4 — Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet), Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford)
Row 5 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevroley), Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota)
Row 6 — Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Chevrolet)
Row 7 — Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet), Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)
Row 8 — Rya Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford), Casey Mears (No. 13 Chevrolet)
Row 12 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
Row 13 — Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet), Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet)
Row 14 — Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford), Landon Cassill (No. 38 Ford)
Row 15 — Regan Smith (No. 7 Chevrolet), Chris Buescher (No. 34 Ford)
Row 16 — David Ragan (No. 23 Toyota), Matt DiBenedetto (No. 83 Toyota)
Row 17 — Brian Scott (No. 44 Ford), Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Chevrolet)
Row 18 — Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 32 Ford), Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet)
Row 19 — Gray Gaulding (No. 30 Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 98 Chevrolet)
Row 20 — D.J. Kennington (No. 55 Chevrolet), Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota)