Bowman lands first Coors Light Pole at Phoenix – Nascar

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Alex Bowman stormed to his first Coors Light Pole Award in Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway.


Bowman, prepping for his eighth start in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., guided the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet to a best lap of 140.521 mph around the 1-mile track. The Arizona native’s first pole position comes in the 80th start of his Sprint Cup career.


“Man, it’s amazing,” said the 23-year-old from nearby Tucson. “We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice (earlier on Friday). 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 posted the second-fastest lap, turning a 140.263 mph qualifying pass in the final round in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet. He’ll start on the front row alongside Bowman in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the ninth of 10 events in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs.


Rookie Chase Elliott was third-fastest at 140.236 mph, completing a 1-2-3 sweep by drivers out of the eight-driver playoff picture.


Sunday’s 312-lapper is the final race in the Round of 8 to determine the final four qualifiers for the Nov. 20 Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only Jimmie Johnson, who qualified 17th Friday, and Carl Edwards (11th) have clinched title shots, leaving two open spots up for grabs among the six remaining postseason hopefuls.


The rest of the Chase field’s qualifying spots: Joey Logano (fourth), Denny Hamlin (fifth), Kevin Harvick (sixth), Matt Kenseth (10th), Kurt Busch (12th) and Kyle Busch (19th). Harvick, who tops the series with eight Phoenix victories, has won five of the last six races for the series on the Arizona oval.


Fourth on the grid wasn’t what Logano wanted in his quest to make the Championship 4 at Homestead, but his position on the outside of the second row could be an advantage at the start of the race.


“No, it’s not first, right?” said Logano, who is tied for third in the Chase standings with Kyle Busch. “We had a fast Shell Pennzoil Ford again in qualifying and didn’t get the pole. That part is frustrating. The good part is we are fourth and not that far back, and the outside lane is usually a good place to be here at Phoenix on the restarts.


“Usually the leader takes the outside, and that works out pretty well. Overall, we should get a decent pit stall and be able to race toward the front. I’m frustrated because I am not first, which I guess is a good thing — but it kind of stinks.”


The Chase drivers aside, the story in qualifying was Bowman, who ran a third lap after posting his fast time in the second, not knowing he had run fast enough to secure the pole.


Earnhardt, who watched from pit road, was elated at the success of his relief driver.


“This is his hometown, kind of, so it’s awesome that all his friends are around to see him do this,” Earnhardt said. “This is great for his career. This is exactly what we were hoping to happen for him. Hopefully, he can put it together on Sunday.”


Austin Dillon was second-fastest in the opening round of qualifying, but committed a “blend-line” violation with an improper merge onto the race track early in the second round. It mattered little as last weekend’s pole winner at Texas wound up seventh in Friday’s qualifying in the desert.


Martin Truex Jr., whose Chase hopes ended in the Round of 12, will start last in the 40-car field after his Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota failed to make a lap. After a wreck with its primary car in Friday practice, the team had difficulties getting its reserve through inspection. The backup car cleared with roughly one minute left in the opening 20-minute round, and time ran out before Truex could get buckled in.


Tony Stewart, scheduled to run his final Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, just missed a chance at advancing past the first elimination in qualifying. His 137.825 mph lap was just .014 seconds slower than Casey Mears, who took the 24th and final spot in the first round.


Contributing: Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service



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