Bowman puts No. 88 on Daytona 500 pole

Hope Soto
February 15, 2018

Alex Bowman, Earnhardt's replacement at Hendrick Motorsports, won the pole Sunday for next weekend's Daytona 500, the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

Denny Hamlin will join Bowman on the front row after reaching 195.092 miles per hour during his qualifying run.

Bowman won the pole for "The Great American Race" in his debut as the official driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet.

The 24-year-old from Arizona impressed Rick Hendrick enough that when Earnhardt said he would retire at the end of 2017, Bowman got the job.

"I think it's still a little surreal", Bowman told "It's a dream come true just to drive for Hendrick Motorsports".

Bowman rotated with Jeff Gordon in 2016 when Earnhardt missed half the season due to concussions, but this will be his first season as a full-time driver at Hendrick.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Earnhardt tweeted congratulations to his replacement, who also won a Cup pole while filling in for Earnhardt in 2016. Byron was Rookie of the Year in both the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series the past two seasons, and he'll be gunning for a third straight award in 2018.

Hamlin was thrilled to have earned such a strong starting spot at second.

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"I know we've come close at Daytona a few times now".

The Toyotas were fast, though, and all four JGR entries were in the top seven Sunday.

Defending NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr., also a Toyota driver, was 26th and searching for the same speed the Gibbs cars displayed. "I knew it was a special run at the 330-foot mark, and I even shut the auto off a bit early so we know we can improve upon those numbers at some point". "I don't know, new rules package and all, we're just trying to figure that out". "Actually, a lot of times in Daytona, in super-speedway weekends, you walk away going, "Well, go to bed" instead of being frustrated that you weren't close or you weren't in the ballgame".

"I was like, 'Man, where was I on that one?' It would have just been a good gamble to use the backup but didn't think of it soon enough and was honestly just really concerned about the work getting done to put the primary vehicle out there for the 500".

Patrick will race at Daytona with Premium Motorsports, a typically underfunded race team but one that finished Michael Waltrip's career with an eighth-place finish in the Daytona 500 a year ago and had a guaranteed spot in the race.

"I didn't think we would run that fast", Harvick admitted. "We're going to give it a good shot".

When Danica Patrick raced for JR Motorsports from 2010 to 2012, her crew chief, Tony Eury Jr., put up a sign that pointed to the lounge in the team transporter that carried the cars and other equipment from track to track. Fans can position race-themed items like driver helmets and Goodyear tires within their camera frames and share the images with friends on social media.

"Everything is the same as it was before as far as showing up to Daytona without having driven since Homestead, so that is no different", she said.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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