DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Alex Bowman proved Sunday afternoon at Daytona Int’l Speedway that he’s picking up right where his predecessor, Dale Earnhardt Jr., left off.
Taking over this season as the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman continued the incredible run of restrictor plate success that Earnhardt built over the course of his career with team owner Rick Hendrick, flying to his first-career Daytona 500 pole position with an incredible flying lap of 46.002 seconds (195.644 mph) in the second and final round.
Bowman led both rounds of knockout qualifying on Sunday afternoon, appearing dominant as he notched his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole and first for ‘The Great American Race’.
But despite the apparent ease with which he accomplished the feat, Bowman admitted there were still nerves inside his cockpit.
“It was just a little nerve-wracking,” admitted the Arizona native of his final run. “Our Nationwide Camaro ZL1 has been great since we unloaded. All the guys back at the chassis shop, body shop; the Hendrick engine shop is top-notch. They all work so hard and we knew we were going for the pole. That’s what we were here to do and we did it. I thought we were at a little disadvantage, letting the car cool down as long as we did since we went pretty early in that first round. I was a little nervous for that second round, but glad it took off well off pit road and did everything I could do.”
“(Earning a plate track pole) really comes down to the crew and all the guys back at the shop … whether it’s the aero group, the engine shop, the chassis shop; everybody works so hard at these speedway cars, especially for the [Daytona] 500. It means the world to have Nationwide’s support and to be able to put this car on the pole. I couldn’t be more happy.”
Bowman’s pole also marks the fourth-straight Daytona 500 pole for Hendrick Motorsports and the team’s 11th overall.
But despite Bowman’s fast success, team owner Rick Hendrick refused to take any credit for Bowman’s impressive feat.
“Listen, I’d love to take the credit for Alex, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. said when he got hurt that he’d love to have Alex in the car,” Hendrick explained Sunday following Bowman’s pole run. “I hadn’t watched him to that point, but when he got in the car he just did an awesome job for us. Nationwide loves him; so does Axalta, and he’s just so much fun to work with.”
“He’s got so much talent and he’s leading into an exciting year for us. I couldn’t be happier to see that (No.) 88 on the pole and to have all our cars in the top 10. It’s been a really good day.”
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