Clint Bowyer wins pole for South Point Casino 400 at Las Vegas
Clint Bowyer made a 30.180-second/178.926 mph lap around Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying to claim the pole for Sunday’s South Point Casino 400. Bowyer’s latest pole, the third of his career, came on the 12th anniversary of his second, won on Sept. 14, 2007 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Both of his previous Cup Series poles came in 2007, during his stint with Richard Childress Racing.
“Man, I had Jack Daniels for a sponsor back then,” Bowyer said. “Let me tell you, that day was celebrated roughly. Yeah, those were the days. Thank God I was younger back then. I remember going to that race track, which was a good race track for us, and having a lot of confidence knowing that we could take care of business and unloaded off the track extremely fast, and it started off the Chase, and we sat on the pole and kicked their ass that day. It was a ton of fun. I didn’t remember that it was this exact day 12 years ago, but I certainly remember that day and that win and what it meant to me and my family. It was literally the answer to everything we had ever wanted.”
Stewart-Haas Racing swept the top-four spots in qualifying, with Daniel Suarez claiming the second spot to start on the front row next to Bowyer. Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola claimed second-row starting spots.
“You have to qualify well, because it puts you in position to start the race on a good note and stay up front and keep some track position, and it really sets you up to score points in stage one,” Almirola said. "That is really what qualifying well does for you. I think that is the biggest thing. With the points as tight as they are, qualifying well and getting some stage points in stage o really helps. So, usually, if you qualify 25th, it is really hard to get stage points in stage one. Qualifying well is important, and I am happy about that and really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. There is so much effort going in week in and week out, and I feel really good about where we are at.”
Ford and Chevrolet drivers combined to lock Toyota out of the top-10 of the starting grid. Five Chevrolet drivers followed the quartet of SHR Ford drivers. Former SHR drivr Kurt Busch was fifth in qualifying, followed by Richard Childress Racing drivers Daniel Hemric and Austin Dillon and Hendrick Motorsports duo Chase Elliott and Michael McDowell. Another Ford drivr, Michael McDowell, qualified 10th.
The highest-qualifying Toyota driver was Denny Hamlin in 13th.
“We came here, and we thought we were going to be pretty confident off of the truck, and it just did not drive well at all,” Hamlin said. “So we kind of went through a transition, there, through practice, so it seems like they made some improvements on it for qualifying.”
The top-10 spots on the grid also were split evenly among playoff and non-playoff drivers. Four of the 16 playoff drivers qualified outside the top-20, with Erik Jones being the lowest-qualifying driver in the playoffs in 26th. Other playoff drivers outside the top-20 included Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. in positions 22nd through 24th.
“It’s just frustrating,” Jones said. “You hold it wide open, and you hope to go fast, but it’s not where we want to be. We have qualified pretty close to 15th all year, and we will just have to race good. It’s frustrating, because it takes time to get up there. You have such a better car than that, but you have to sacrifice your race to qualify well, and it’s not a good fit for us. We want to race good. We will just have to race our way to the front. The Craftsman Camry has speed. It’s just going to take all day to get up front. It’s frustrating in that aspect, but we know we have a fast car.”