Clint Bowyer wins pole for South Point 400

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Clint Bowyer will start from the pole for Sunday’s Cup Series playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Bowyer claimed just his third career Cup Series pole with a speed of 178.926 mph. His first two poles came in 2007 at Darlington and New Hampshire. This pole comes 12 years to the day after the New Hampshire pole. He went on to win that race.

The 431 starts between Bowyer’s poles is the second longest streak in Cup history behind 456 by Michael Waltrip.

Bowyer, a playoff driver, led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep of the top four positions. Daniel Suarez qualified second, followed by Kevin Harvick (playoffs) and Aric Almirola (playoffs). The last time SHR started first through fourth was last fall’s Talladega playoff race.

The top five is completed by Kurt Busch (playoffs).

“I just asked the guys, ‘There’s something wrong here. What’s going on here?'” Bowyer told NBCSN. “The throttle stuck, that’s what it was. … We were here at the test earlier in the spring before the season got started. Kind of have an opportunity to figure out how to try to make the track a little bit smaller. It’s all about getting up through the gears, getting momentum built up, making the track as big as possible coming to the green.”

Added Bowyer: “I did not see this coming. This is a surprise.”

Only five playoff drivers qualified in the top 12.

Here’s where the rest of the playoff drivers will start Sunday:

Chase Elliott – eighth

Denny Hamlin – 11th

William Byron – 14th

Kyle Larson – 15th

Ryan Newman – 17th

Brad Keselowski – 18th (defending race winner)

Alex Bowman – 19th

Kyle Busch – 20th

Joey Logano – 22nd

Ryan Blaney – 23rd

Martin Truex Jr. – 24th

Erik Jones – 26th

Click here for the qualifying results.