Alex Bowman wins pole for 60th Daytona 500; Denny Hamlin second
Alex Bowman won the pole for the 60th Daytona 500, laying down a top speed of 195.644 mph in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet.
He will be joined on the front row of the Feb. 18 race by Denny Hamlin. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver posted a speed of 195.092 mph.
Bowman’s pole is his second in the Cup Series. The first came in the fall 2016 race at Phoenix, when he was a substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The pole is the fourth straight for Hendrick Motorsports in the “Great American Race.” Bowman follows Jeff Gordon (2015) and Chase Elliott (2016-17).
Team owner Rick Hendrick ties Harry Ranier (1979-82) for the record for most consecutive Daytona 500 poles. Hendrick has won seven of the last 11 Daytona 500 poles.
The No. 88 car has started on the front row for the last five restrictor-plate races and won the pole for the last three.
Bowman called his pole run “nerve-wracking.”
“We knew we were going for the pole,” Bowman told Fox. “That’s what we’re here to do. I thought we were at a little disadvantage letting the car cool down as long as we did (between rounds) since we went pretty early in that first round. Was a little nervous for that second round. Took off well from pit road, did everything I could do. This really comes down to the crew, all the guys back at the shop.”
At 24 years, nine months and 17 days old, Bowman is third youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 pole.
Hamlin, the 2016 Daytona 500 winner, will start from the front row in the Daytona 500 for the first time.
“I am literally so ecstatic,” Hamlin told Fox. “It was so out of the blue because honestly I thought today was going to be a tough day of qualifying because we focused so much on race trim yesterday. We stuck in a pack. I think we did one real mock run, which really wasn’t even a mock run. We were so far off that we just switched and made sure our car was going to run really good on Thursday and obviously next Sunday. This car is ready to race.”
The rest of the 40-car field for the Daytona 500 will be determined by Thursday’s Can-Am qualifying races.
Bowman and Hamlin were followed by Jimmie Johnson (194.734), Kyle Busch (194.704) and William Byron (194.548).
Kevin Harvick was the fastest Ford driver, posting the eighth best speed at 194.464 mph.
BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota, driven by Gray Gaulding, did not make an attempt.
Gaulding will start from the rear of his qualifying race on Thursday.
David Ragan didn’t complete his qualifying run after his N0. 38 Ford experienced brake issues .