Alex Bowman captured the pole for next Sunday's Daytona 500 with a speed of 195.644 miles per hour in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, which was the former vehicle of the retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stenhouse won two plate races last season, at Talladega in the spring and at Daytona in July. Bowman served as a substitute driver filling in for Earnhardt in 2016 when the popular driver was battling concussion issues.
Only the front row for next week's Daytona 500 will be set Sunday through Daytona's unique qualifying format. "I knew it was a special run at the 330-foot mark, and I even shut the vehicle off a bit early so we know we can improve upon those numbers at some point".
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"It's still a little surreal". Bowman elected to stay with Hendrick Motorsports as a test and simulation driver in 2017 instead of drive for another team and was rewarded with the job of being Earnhardt Jr.'s replacement in 2018.
Bowman was the fastest in the first round of Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday, then put down an even faster lap during the second round to win the pole for the Great American Race. Jimmie Johnson just missed a top-2 qualifying run, though he'll join everyone else in the field and have to compete for his starting spot in the Can-Am Duel on Thursday.