On his home track and with his time in the No. 88 running out, Alex Bowman won his first Sprint Cup pole.
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Bowman put up a top speed of 140.521 mph around Phoenix International Speedway. The pole, for Sunday’s Can-Am 500, comes in Bowman’s 80th Sprint Cup start.
The 23-year-old driver, who has an average start of 31.6 in the first 79 starts, said he was “not quite sure” how he pulled off the feat on the 1-mile track.
“We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice,”Bowman said. “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 racecars we haven’t had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot.”
It will be Bowman’s ninth race as a replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is recovering from a concussion.
“I’m not very good at qualifying and he’s been in the car and he’s really helped our team get better on the qualifying front,” Earnhardt told NBC Sports. “Alex has really, really helped our program. Jeff (Gordon) helped it a lot, but Alex has been a great treat for the guys to work with.”
Phoenix represents the final elimination race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Where Chase drivers will start the Can-Am 500:
Joey Logano, fourth
Denny Hamlin, fifth
Kevin Harvick, sixth
Matt Kenseth, 10th
Carl Edwards, 11th
Kurt Busch, 12th
Jimmie Johnson, 17th
Kyle Busch, 19th
Tony Stewart will start his final race at Phoenix in 25th.
Martin Truex Jr. will start 40th after the No. 78 team was unable to get his car through inspection in time to make a lap in the first round.