Clint Bowyer captured the pole for Saturday’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was his first pole in the event which features a $1 million prize.
Qualifying required each participant to complete three qualifying laps with one four-tire pit stop with no pit road speed limit. Bowyer’s best lap time of 136.371 mph and his 14.8-second pit stop in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was enough to earn the top starting position. It will be his 10th All-Star Race.
“Our Fords are extremely fast, frustrated that we haven’t been able to break into victory lane. We’re poised to do that. I’m telling you, the Stewart-Haas cars have been extremely fast,” Bowyer said. “Kevin (Harvick) showed his muscle last week in Kansas, had a mishap and didn’t get his win. We’ve been knocking on the door at Richmond and Bristol and Martinsville.
“With our 14 car, I’m very proud of the job that Buga (Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief) and everybody has been doing. That was the difference tonight. Tonight was all about going fast and getting the most out of three laps and I do love the aspect that you add that pit crew. It gives them a time to shine. My pit crew has been doing a jam-up job all season long and they were a big part of that. I call that a win. That is a victory. That’s something that’s not just a qualifying lap. It’s a total team effort.”
Kyle Busch, who fell short of the pole in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by .177 seconds, said, “I thought everything about the lap actually was pretty good. I’m not sure how fast the lap itself was — how fast our car was on the lap.
“I felt like my progressiveness onto pit road and pit road speed was relatively good, and then the braking point and being able to just chatter the tires all the way into the box was really close. Really on the money there. I thought we got all we could get out of it.”
Kevin Harvick, Bowyer’s teammate, will start third with his fastest lap time of 136.068 mph as Austin Dillon and Martin Truex Jr. round out the top five.
Harvick seemed pleased that his qualifying run went smoothly, saying, “I think I could have got a little better in the braking onto pit road was okay, a little better time in the braking and I spun the tires a little bit too much leaving the stall, but in the end you don’t want to make any big mistakes and I think we accomplished that.”
Of the remaining drivers who have already qualified for the All-Star Race, Ryan Newman will start sixth followed by Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.
Qualifying for the Open was held prior to All-Star qualifying and Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric won the pole.
“I said on the radio this is the first box checked for the weekend,” Hemric said. “You’ve got to bring the fastest race car you can, and we’ve done that. Hopefully, we can do our jobs tomorrow and do what we need to do to get in the All-Star race and really have some fun.”
Fifteen drivers have qualified for the race and another three will join the lineup after the Monster Energy Open which will precede the All-Star Race Saturday night at 6 p.m. ET. The Open will consist of three stages and each stage winner will earn a spot in the All-Star Race. One final driver will be chosen from the Fan Vote, making a total of 19 competitors for the All-Star event.
This year’s All-Star race is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1 and will include four stages of 30, 20 and 20 laps with a final 15-lap shootout.
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