Stewart Haas Racing sweeps the top four starting spots, and this time they get to keep it. Clint Bowyer will lead his Ford teammates by winning the Busch Pole Award for the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series.
“I’m as shocked as you are,” Bowyer exclaimed in the media center.
Reason for the surprise is that it was Bowyer’s third career pole in the Cup series. His last pole came on this date in 2007 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when qualifying was originally held on Friday. He went on to lead 222 laps and claim his first career win. The race was also the Playoff opener for that year’s postseason. It had been 431 races between the veteran driver’s pole awards.
“Something is wrong with them if I beat them to a pole,” Bowyer said jokingly on the NBCSN broadcast. “I’m telling you that car is a bullet.
“Tomorrow’s a whole new day. The thing’s got to turn left at the end of the straightaway tomorrow and it has to do it for a long time, unlike just one lap today. Just timing is everything and we had some good fortune.”
Bowyer bested his teammates, with Daniel Suarez, Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola starting just behind him. The team had originally earned the first four starting positions earlier this year at Kansas, but post-qualifying inspection found two of the cars illegal, invalidating their times. Former Stewart Haas driver Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
“Qualifying well is important,” Almirola shared after his fourth place qualifying run. “I am happy about that and really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. There is so much effort going in week in and week out, and I feel really good about where we are at.”
The first non-Playoff drivers were the Richard Childress Racing teammates of Daniel Hemric and Austin Dillon, who will start sixth and seventh respectively. Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Michael McDowell complete the top 10 starting positions.
“It hurts to not be in the Playoffs,” Johnson shared before qualifying with Bob Pockrass for NASCAR on FOX. “It really bothers me at the end of the day, but that’s good that it has that effect on me. We’re going to use that as fuel to get us back where we need to be.”
Denny Hamlin was the fastest Toyota driver, and will start 13th. Other Playoff drivers through the first half of the field include William Byron (14th), Kyle Larson (15th), Ryan Newman (17th), Brad Keselowski (18), Alex Bowman (19th) and Kyle Busch (20th).
The Playoff drivers that struggled the most in qualifying include Joey Logano (22nd), Ryan Blaney (23rd), Martin Truex Jr. (24th) and Erik Jones (26th).
The green flag for the first race of the Playoffs will wave on Sunday, September 15 for the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.