Bowyer Snaps Pole Drought In Las Vegas

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Clint Bowyer earned his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole since 2007 on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (HHP/Jeff Fluharty Photo)
Clint Bowyer earned his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole since 2007 on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (HHP/Jeff Fluharty Photo)

LAS VEGAS – Clint Bowyer is not known as a strong qualifier, but he turned that notion on its head Saturday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Kansas driver earned his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series pole since 2007 during qualifying for the South Point 400, leading a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep of the first two rows in the process.

Bowyer’s 30.180-second lap at 178.926 mph was just enough to give the driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang the pole over his teammate Daniel Suarez, whose lap was .009 seconds slower than the one put down by Bowyer.

“I just asked the guys is something wrong here? What’s going on here?” joked Bowyer, who is the highest qualified of the 16 playoff contenders in the first race of the playoffs. “You’re in a situation where you hold it wide open. We were here at the test earlier in the spring before the season got started and kind of had an opportunity how to try and make the track a little bit smaller.

“It’s all about getting up through the gears and getting momentum built up and making the track as big as possible coming to that green (flag), but on the lap it’s all about these Ford Mustangs. Everybody at Roush Yates Engines, they’re bringing the steam.

“It must drive itself. If I just sat on the pole, I’m telling you that car is a bullet.”

Bowyer’s pole is the third of his lengthy NASCAR Cup Series career. His last pole came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2007 when he was driving for Richard Childress Racing.

Kevin Harvick qualified third, .026 seconds off the pace set by Bowyer. The fourth Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang driven by Aric Almirola qualified fourth, .072 off Bowyer’s fast lap. Kurt Busch was the fastest Chevrolet, qualifying fifth for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Four of the first five drivers are members of the 16-driver playoff field battling for the series championship this year. Suarez is the only driver in the top-five not eligible to compete for the series championship.

Daniel Hemric qualified sixth, followed by Austin Dillon, playoff driver Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Michael McDowell.

Other playoff drivers include Denny Hamlin in 13th, William Byron in 14th, Kyle Larson in 15th, Ryan Newman in 17th, Brad Keselowski in 18th, Alex Bowman in 19th, Kyle Busch in 20th, Joey Logano in 22nd, Ryan Blaney in 23rd, Martin Truex Jr. in 24th and Erik Jones in 26th.

South Point 400 Starting Lineup

1. Clint Bowyer
2. Daniel Suarez
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Aric Almirola
5. Kurt Busch
6. Daniel Hemric
7. Austin Dillon
8. Chase Elliott
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Michael McDowell
11. David Ragan
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Denny Hamlin
14. William Byron
15. Kyle Larson
16. Ryan Preece
17. Ryan Newman
18. Brad Keselowski
19. Alex Bowman
20. Kyle Busch
21. Paul Menard
22. Joey Logano
23. Ryan Blaney
24. Martin Truex Jr.
25. Matt DiBenedetto
26. Erik Jones
27. Ty Dillon
28. Chris Buescher
29. Matt Tifft
30. Landon Cassill
31. Bubba Wallace
32. Ross Chastain
33. Corey LaJoie
34. Garrett Smithley
35. B.J. McLeod
36. J.J. Yeley
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Joe Nemechek
39. Joey Gase