CONCORD, N.C. -- Some things at the DAYTONA 500 haven’t changed over the last few years, such as a Hendrick Motorsports driver sitting on the front row for the start of “The Great American Race.” That was the case again Wednesday night after Alex Bowman earned the pole award for the best qualifying lap at Daytona International Speedway.
It’s the second time Bowman secured the pole for the DAYTONA 500 and fourth consecutive year he’s been on the front row.
“It’s just amazing to have qualified so well down here for the last couple of years,” Bowman said. “(It’s) such an honor to drive these fast race cars for Hendrick Motorsports. (I’m) really happy for Ally and Chevrolet (and) everybody who makes this deal possible. It’s going to be a lot of fun starting from the front row.”
Bowman will have support on the front row for Sunday’s race, as well. Teammate William Byron posted the second-best time during Wednesday’s qualifying session and will start second. While it’s easy to roll off the grid side by side, Bowman admitted it’s difficult for teammates to stick together throughout a superspeedway race.
“Hopefully, we will be able to control the race from the front row,” Bowman said. “It’s tough to do, but there are a lot of Chevrolets up front. Hopefully, we can all work together and keep a Chevrolet up front for every lap until the end.”
Crew chief Greg Ives has been with Bowman for the last four years and said the team’s chemistry has been building over the past few months. Winning the pole award after a strong finish to the 2020 season reassured Ives that the team is clicking well.
“When you come off a great playoff run like we had, we knew we had to stay dedicated to improving and progressing,” Ives said. “I think a lot (was) on us to qualify well at the DAYTONA 500 just because it’s the last one before the change to the Gen 7 car. Things could look a little different next year as far as how we’re going to qualify and different things we’re going to do. So, (it’s) just very important for our speedway program to get this pole and to continuously pump the morale in the shop and know we are producing fast race cars.”
Bowman and Ives can relax heading into Thursday night’s Duel races. The 27-year-old driver will start on the pole in the first Duel event, though he doesn’t need to win to keep his top starting spot for the 500.
“We just really got to be smart in the Duels,” Bowman said. “You don’t want to tear up a race car and not be able to race it on Sunday. (We) just got to be smart, learn what we can, get our takeaways from it, and go to Sunday.”
The Duels will begin at 7 p.m. ET on FS1 and will set the remaining lineup for the DAYTONA 500, which will start Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET and be broadcast of FOX.