Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman showed the field on Sunday (Feb. 11) that he had the best car in town by himself. Bowman won the pole for next Sunday’s Daytona 500 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with a lap of 46.002 seconds (195.644 mph). He was also fastest overall in round No. 1 with a lap of 46.181 seconds (194.885 mph). It was a perfect start for his first race replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Bowman told FOX Sports’ Jamie Little after his lap. “I thought we were at a little disadvantage letting the car cool down as long as we did since we went so early. I was a little nervous, but the car took off well off pit road. I did everything I could do, but it comes down to the crew and the guys back in the shop.”
Bowman’s lap was one-eighth of a second faster than Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in second. Those two drivers, assuming that they don’t have to change an engine or go to a backup car sometime next week, will be locked into the front row.
Jimmie Johnson was third, followed by Kyle Busch. Rookie William Byron rounded out the top five. Erik Jones was sixth fastest, followed by teammate Daniel Suárez. Kevin Harvick was the fastest Ford in eighth, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Chase Elliott was 10th, while Joey Logano and Paul Menard rounded out the top 12.
Chevy and Toyota swept the first row, but Ford had their share of drivers up front. The top 12 positions were an even 4/4/4 split among NASCAR’s trio of manufacturers. All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers along with the Joe Gibbs Racing quartet made the final round of qualifying.
Notables outside of the top 12 include Ryan Blaney in 15th, Kurt Busch in 17th, Brad Keselowski in 19th and Kyle Larson in 22nd. Danica Patrick started her “Danica Double” off by qualifying 28th fastest.
Only 38 drivers turned in times during the session. According to Front Row Motorsports, David Ragan‘s No. 38 Ford had a brake issue during his run that made it difficult to accelerate and chose to bring it in without setting a time.
The other driver that failed to set a time was BK Racing’s Gray Gaulding. The BK Racing Toyota failed to get through inspection before the five-minute clock expired.
The car has passed all inspection stations with the exception of the engine inspection, Gray will start at the tail of the field in Thursday nights duel -PR pic.twitter.com/20KFQZtir3
— Gray Gaulding (@graygaulding) February 11, 2018
The starting order for the remainder of the field will be set by Thursday night’s Can-Am Duels. Coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1.