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Bowman lands first Coors Light Pole at Phoenix
RELATED: Starting lineup " See every car " Points standings " Chase Grid Alex Bowman stormed to his first Coors Light Pole Award in Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway . Bowman, prepping for his eighth start in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr ., guided the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet to a best lap of 140.521 mph around the 1-mile track. The Arizona native's first pole position comes in the 80th start of his Sprint Cup career. "Man, it's amazing," said the 23-year-old from nearby Tucson. "We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice (earlier on Friday). I don't really know where that came from, but I just can't thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports enough. "To do this in Phoenix, so close to home, means so much to me. We have had such fast race cars. We haven't had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot." Kyle Larson posted the second-fastest lap, turning a 140.263 mph qualifying pass in the final round in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet. He'll start on the front row alongside Bowman in Sunday's Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the ninth of 10 events in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Rookie Chase Elliott was third-fastest at 140.236 mph, completing a 1-2-3 sweep by drivers out of the eight-driver playoff picture. Sunday's 312-lapper is the final race in the Round of 8 to determine the final four qualifiers for the Nov. 20 Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Only Jimmie Johnson , who qualified 17th Friday, and Carl Edwards (11th) have clinched title shots, leaving two open spots up for grabs among the six remaining postseason hopefuls. The rest of the Chase field's qualifying spots: Joey Logano (fourth), Denny Hamlin (fifth), Kevin Harvick (sixth), Matt Kenseth (10th), Kurt Busch (12th) and Kyle Busch (19th). Harvick, who tops the series with eight Phoenix victories, has won five of the last six races for the series on the Arizona oval. Fourth on the grid wasn't what Logano wanted in his quest to make the Championship 4 at Homestead, but his position on the outside of the second row could be an advantage at the start of the race. "No, it's not first, right?" said Logano, who is tied for third in the Chase standings with Kyle Busch . "We had a fast Shell Pennzoil Ford again in qualifying and didn't get the pole. That part is frustrating. The good part is we are fourth and not that far back, and the outside lane is usually a good place to be here at Phoenix on the restarts. "Usually the leader takes the outside, and that works out pretty well. Overall, we should get a decent pit stall and be able to race toward the front. I'm frustrated because I am not first, which I guess is a good thing -- but it kind of stinks." The Chase drivers aside, the story in qualifying was Bowman, who ran a third lap after posting his fast time in the second, not knowing he had run fast enough to secure the pole. Earnhardt, who watched from pit road, was elated at the success of his relief driver. "This is his hometown, kind of, so it's awesome that all his friends are around to see him do this," Earnhardt said. "This is great for his career. This is exactly what we were hoping to happen for him. Hopefully, he can put it together on Sunday." Austin Dillon was second-fastest in the opening round of qualifying, but committed a "blend-line" violation with an improper merge onto the race track early in the second round. It mattered little as last weekend's pole winner at Texas wound up seventh in Friday's qualifying in the desert. Martin Truex Jr ., whose Chase hopes ended in the Round of 12, will start last in the 40-car field after his Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota failed to make a lap. After a wreck with its primary car in Friday practice, the team had difficulties getting its reserve through inspection. The backup car cleared with roughly one minute left in the opening 20-minute round, and time ran out before Truex could get buckled in. Tony Stewart , scheduled to run his final Sprint Cup race at Phoenix, just missed a chance at advancing past the first elimination in qualifying. His 137.825 mph lap was just .014 seconds slower than Casey Mears , who took the 24th and final spot in the first round. Contributing: Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Jr.: Bowman 'deserves' to run The Clash
RELATED: Dale Jr. set for Daytona return in 2017 " Format set for The Clash Dale Earnhardt Jr . is set to resume his NASCAR career at Daytona International Speedway in February, but one week later than he potentially could. It's a move borne of deference and appreciation for the driver who admirably filled in last season during his recovery from a neurological ailment. Both Earnhardt and substitute driver Alex Bowman meet eligibility requirements for The Clash, a non-points exhibition race scheduled Feb. 18 (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the 2.5-mile Florida track. But Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Bowman would drive the team's No. 88 Chevrolet in the invitational, a week before the season-opening Daytona 500 . Earnhardt had heard rumblings about rules for the Clash format and field as last season drew to a close. His hunch that 2016 pole winners would make up the majority of the starting lineup was correct. The Clash rules were still up in the air when Bowman -- who ran 10 of the 18 races Earnhardt missed in the second half of last season -- claimed the first Coors Light Pole Award of his career in November at Phoenix International Raceway . After watching the qualifying results play out on pit road, Earnhardt's first words to Hendrick general manager Doug Duchardt were that Bowman should keep the driver's seat for the Daytona preliminary.
Dillon earns second Coors Light Pole of 2016
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman talks with Austin Dillon after he snags his second Coors Light Pole Award of 2016, scoring the fast lap in Texas.
Bowman wins first career Coors Light Pole Award
Alex Bowman claimed his first career Coors Light Pole Award in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at his hometrack, Phoenix International Raceway.
Truex earns back-to-back Coors Light Pole Awards
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman talks with Martin Truex Jr. after Truex earned his fifth Coors Light Pole Award of the 2016 season at Martinsville Speedway.
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex, who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. "The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex. Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Busch picks up Coors Light Pole Award in search of Brickyard defense
RELATED: Full starting lineup " See the full field SPEEDWAY, Ind. – A sweep at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nothing new to Kyle Busch. But this year, he started early. With a lap at 184.634 mph (48.745 seconds) in the final round of Saturday's knockout qualifying, Busch claimed the pole position for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earlier in the day, the driver who swept both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races at Indy last year earned the pole award ahead of the heat races prior to Saturday afternoon’s Lilly Diabetes 250 XFINITY race. But the Sprint Cup pole that completed the Saturday sweep was special, because it was the first for Busch at the vaunted Brickyard. "I haven't been great at qualifying here, but the guys gave me a great piece this time around, and I'm real pumped about that," said Busch, who claimed his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season and the 19th of his career. "We're starting first in both of these (races), and hopefully we can end that way. "It means a lot (to win the pole). It's definitely pretty special to be running the way that we're running and to have the success that we've had here the last couple of years at Indy, and I’d love nothing more than to try to win here again." Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was .023 seconds faster than the No. 19 of teammate Carl Edwards (184.547 mph). "I was happy with my lap," Edwards said. "I was surprised Kyle got me. That was a good lap for him – I mean, that was a good lap that he ran because I felt like my lap was pretty good – but, yeah, it's frustrating right now to be second because it's so close, and the pole position is obviously huge here. "But by tomorrow, the race gets started and I think I'll be pretty happy with that starting spot, so just good job by all my guys." Making his last appearance at Indy as a Sprint Cup Series driver, Tony Stewart earned the third starting spot with a lap at 184.328 mph and knew exactly where he had lost critical speed. "I just wish I could do lap three (final round) one more time and not clip the apron in (Turn) 4," Stewart said. "I think we could have been on the pole." RELATED: Stewart discusses his qualifying effort Denny Hamlin qualified fourth, giving JGR three of the top four spots. Brad Keselowski in fifth has the top Ford. Ryan Newman , Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr. , Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will start from positions six through 10, respectively. The time trials were a disappointment for the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, who failed to place a car in the top 12. Jimmie Johnson ran the fastest lap of the day in the first of three rounds, touring the 2.5-mile speedway in 48.435 seconds (185.816 mph). But the six-time series champion failed to advance beyond the second round, losing the 12th and final position to Kurt Busch by .008 seconds. Johnson will start 13th, Chase Elliott 15th and Jeff Gordon , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who is out with concussion-like symptoms, claimed the 21st spot on the grid. "I felt really comfortable right there," said Gordon, who was 15th fastest in the first round. "I feel like today I’m much calmer than I was yesterday (in practice). Usually, my heart is beating more for qualifying than it is for practice, but that wasn't the case. "So, today I feel more relaxed and comfortable in the car. I hope to feel the same way tomorrow. Tomorrow's challenge is going to be being around traffic, and also trying to get the balance of the car right and do that when you're by yourself as well as when you're around other cars." Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field. </p>
Carl Edwards nabs Coors Light Pole Award at Bristol
RELATED: Complete lineup for Bristol " See every car in the field BRISTOL, Tenn. – Denny Hamlin owns a new track record, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards won the round that counted in Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Bristol Motor Speedway . Edwards sped around the .533-mile high-banked concrete short track in 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) to claim the top starting spot for Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA night Race (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), edging Hamlin (131.200 mph) by .023 seconds. Remarkably, Edwards earned his fifth Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his fourth at Bristol and the 21st of his career without making a mock qualifying run during either of Friday's two practice sessions. Instead, the driver of the No. 19 Toyota relied on setup information from his teammates – including Hamlin. "It's nice to have fast teammates," said Edwards, who will try to duplicate his pole-winning, race-winning performance from April. "We wouldn't have had a shot at (the pole) if it wasn’t for them. We thought it was going to rain, so we didn't practice qualifying or anything. My guys made great adjustments based on that information. "I just hope we can finish it off the way we did in the spring." All four JGR drivers qualified in the top five for the 23rd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. Kyle Busch (130.931 mph) will start third and Matt Kenseth (130.619 mph) fifth. The only interloper was Ford driver Ryan Blaney (130.637 mph), who grabbed the fourth spot on the grid in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Fusion. With a blistering run in 14.573 seconds (131.668 mph) in the first round, Hamlin broke the track record he set for this event last year, eclipsing his own mark of 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph). But Hamlin was the last of 12 drivers out for the final round and fell just short of Edwards' winning time. "We had really good speed, so I'm pretty optimistic about that," said Hamlin, who will start within the top six for the 15th time this season. "I can't believe we've qualified as good as we have this year and not gotten a pole. "It's unbelievable – still a great effort by our whole team. I hope we can have a great race up here on (Saturday) night and get in Victory Lane." Chris Buescher , fighting to crack the top 30 in the standings and qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (based on his victory at Pocono), qualified 12th, one position behind Jeff Gordon , who made the final round for the first time in his fourth start in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr . Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott had the fastest Chevrolet, qualifying sixth. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Logano leaps to Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car, team rosters BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Joey Logano was looking for a good omen for Sunday, he found it on Friday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway . Touring the two-mile track in 35.697 seconds (201.698 mph) during the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano's third at MIS. On the previous two occasions the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford started first on the grid—in August 2013 and June 2016—he won the subsequent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Should Logano win form the pole on Sunday, he would be the third driver to win three or more Michigan races from the top starting spot, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bill Elliott . "Any time you put your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort, it would be really special for me," said Logano, who has collected three poles this season and 16 in his career. "That's crazy—that's a really, really neat stat. "We've got to do it though. But, obviously, starting up front here is an advantage, for sure. We talk about track position. We talk about safety on restart, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package. And the first pit stall—probably the most important thing of all is keeping the track position through the race." And, of course, when Logano is fast in qualifying trim at MIS, he usually races well, too. "I'm excited about it," he said. "I thought our car was really fast in race trim earlier (in practice). ... I didn't think we were going to make it happen today (in qualifying), but (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk, and I was ready to go. I was going to drive the heck out of that thing." Denny Hamlin (201.406 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph) and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph). Johnson's second-place start led a resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports , which placed all four cars in the top 12 during qualifying for only the second time this season, the first coming in May at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track. "It was just an awesome day for this Lowe's race car and this Lowe's race team," Johnson said. "We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. "My hat's off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they're putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions (Saturday) and roll them into a good race." Johnson participated in a NASCAR organization test (one car per team) on Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway and found the session helpful in finding speed. Indeed, the Hendrick cars more than held their own against the four entries from Joe Gibbs Racing , which have been the dominant force in Cup qualifying this season. Hamlin and Carl Edwards (ninth), were the only two JGR drivers to make the top 12, with Matt Kenseth qualifying 13th and Kyle Busch 16th. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Hamlin holds on for Coors Light Pole at Richmond
RELATED: Starting lineup " See every car in the field RICHMOND, Va. – Don't tell Denny Hamlin his first pole of the season isn't significant. In the money round of Friday's knockout qualifying session, the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota toured .75-mile Richmond International Raceway in 22.069 seconds (122.344 mph) to earn the top starting spot for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the final race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season. "I thought for sure we had too many laps on our tires," said Hamlin, who qualified in the top 10 for the 24th consecutive race. "A lot of the guys that we were challenging only had one lap per session, but my car didn't really come in that quick, so I had to run multiple laps. "And on a short track that wears out tires, I thought we were at a huge disadvantage. Just proud of the effort. ... And, obviously, running that fast for that many laps tells us we have a really good car for the long runs. So pretty optimistic, and we'll see if we can't get a win." Though Hamlin edged Kyle Larson by .010 seconds to earn his first Coors Light Pole Award of 2016, his third at Richmond and the 24th of his career, the real drama of Friday afternoon involved drivers who qualified deeper in the field—in some cases, much deeper. Pocono winner Chris Buescher , who is fighting to stay in the top 30 in the standings and thereby earn a Chase spot, qualified a disappointing 31st. Adding to the stress of the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford was the qualifying performance of David Ragan , who is 31st in points and immediately behind Buescher. Ragan was 19th fastest in the first round of knockout qualifying, 12 positions better than Buescher. The problem? Buescher is just 11 points ahead of Ragan entering Saturday’s race, with each position worth one point. Ragan slipped to 21st in the second round and failed to advance, meaning he'll start the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota 10 spots on the grid ahead of Buescher—too far for the rookie driver to enjoy a comfortable night's sleep. Buescher also can stay in the top 30 if he finishes 10 spots ahead of Landon Cassill , his teammate. "That's not where we wanted to be in qualifying with our CSX Ford Fusion," Buescher said. "We were a little better than we were last time here, so there is a little bit of positive to it, believe it or not. We'll be able to work our way up. "At the end of the day, this weekend is about something bigger. We're trying to stay out of trouble and be there at the end. It won't be an easy walk from where we are at right now, but we'll be able to work our way up." RELATED: How bubble drivers fare at Richmond Jamie McMurray (122.189 mph) took control of another important head-to-head matchup, making the final round of qualifying and earning the fourth starting spot. The last driver currently in a Chase-eligible position on points, McMurray enters Saturday’s race with a 22-point advantage over Ryan Newman , whose effort stalled in the second round. Hit with a 15-point penalty on Wednesday after his No. 31 Chevrolet failed the laser inspection station after Sunday's race at Darlington, Newman will start 15th, likely needing a victory to advance to the Chase. "Well, it's a really big weekend for us, but more than that, I'm just thrilled how both of our cars are running," said McMurray, Larson's teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing . "We've just made such big improvements. "We ran good at a two-mile track at Michigan. We ran good at Darlington with a different rules package, and we've run good at a short track. As an organization, it's been really good, and the next 10 races, if we can get in, it's going to be pretty awesome, because our cars have peaked at the right time." Austin Dillon , who starts on Saturday nine points ahead of McMurray, took a significant step toward his first-ever Chase spot with an eighth-place qualifying effort at 121.638 mph. At the other end of the spectrum, another driver likely to experience a sleepless night is Chase Elliott , who qualified 34th in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Elliott starts the night eight points ahead of Dillon and 17 ahead of McMurray. All three drivers share one hope, however—that there's not a new 2016 winner currently outside the Chase grid to reduce the number of Chase spots available on points from three to two (assuming Buescher remains in the top 30). RELATED: Elliott positive despite career-worst starting spot "We're just not going fast enough, for sure," Elliott said after failing to reach the second round. "I really don't know what our problem is, but we struggled in our mock runs earlier today, too. So, we just need to think about it, I guess, and try to go to work tonight. "We're giving it our best effort. It just hasn't been where we need to be. The bad news is that it's a terrible starting spot; but the good news is that it's a long race tomorrow night. We have some teammates that are fast, so hopefully we can lean on them and try to get our Chevrolet a little better." Matt Kenseth , Hamlin's teammate, qualified third. Kurt Busch , who paced the first two rounds, slipped to fifth in the session that decided the starting order of the top 12. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;