CONCORD, N.C. — Clint Bowyer gave team owner Tony Stewart a birthday present during qualifying for the Monster Energy Open on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Bowyer won his first-career Open pole on Stewart’s 46th birthday, piloting the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford to a blistering lap of 28.500 seconds (189.474 mph) in the second and final knockout round at the 1.5-mile quad-oval.
The clip turned by Bowyer was more than two tenths of a second faster than anyone else in the run for the pole.
“Just real proud of Mike and all these guys. This is actually a brand-new race car,” Bowyer said. “A lot of effort goes into the Open and a chance at that All-Star (Race) and a million bucks.”
“Having this starting spot goes a long way; it’s just a good qualifying effort and we’ve got good speed in the race car. Starting up front and having clean air at these 1.5-mile race tracks is important. I followed the guys leading (All-Star practice) last night … and we kind of picked up where they left off today, so hopefully we’ll be able to get in there and race with them later on tonight.”
Ryan Blaney’s No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Ford ended the final round second (28.722/188.009), with Blaney looking to race into his first All-Star Race with the Wood Brothers.
Last year’s Open runner up, Chase Elliott, timed in third ahead of Austin Dillon and 2008 Open winner A.J. Allmendinger.
Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon completed the top eight and all advanced through to the final round.
Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Wonder Woman/One Cure Ford was the first car underneath the cut line for advancing, with a best lap of 29.122 seconds (185.427 mph).
As such the three-time Fan Vote winner (2013, 2015-16) will start ninth on the Open grid.
“I was just a bit loose getting back to the throttle,” Patrick explained. “I got into the corner okay, and I hope that sticks with us for the rest of the night. I didn’t feel (the loose condition) too much in (Turns) 1 and 2, but I did in (Turns) 3 and 4. That was just enough to cost us, I think, and then obviously the 3 (Austin Dillon) went back out and beat us right at the end.”
Other notables deeper in the field include former Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne (11th), ‘super sub’ Regan Smith (13th) and David Ragan (17th).
Reed Sorenson and Michael McDowell did not post a time during qualifying.
The Monster Energy Open takes the green flag at 6 p.m. ET, live on FOX Sports 1 and the Motor Racing Network.
Full qualifying results can be viewed on the next page…