Alex Bowman finally has been rewarded for his patience.
In his 80th career start, Bowman won his first career pole, capturing the No. 1 starting spot in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the final race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 8.
Subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Bowman blistered the desert track with a lap of 140.521 miles per hour.
“Man, it’s amazing,” said Bowman, a native of Tucson, about 135 miles southeast of PIR. “We weren’t really that strong in qualifying trim in practice. 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,” said Bowman. “We have had such fast racecars we haven’t had an ounce of luck, but to get a pole here means a lot.”
Kyle Larson, who like Bowman is not in the Chase, will start on the outside of Ro1w 1 in his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet after posting a lap of 140.263 mph.
Bowman’s teammate Chase Elliott was third, while Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing completed the top five.
“We had a fast Shell Pennzoil Ford again in qualifying and didn’t get the pole,” said Logano. “That part is frustrating.”
“I like this race track,” added Hamlin. “It’s been really good to me honestly and especially in these Chase races, so I’m very confident we can go out here and contend for the win and that’s what we need to do.”
With Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards already locked into next week’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, two more drivers will clinch spots in Sunday’s race.
Positions 2-5 — Joey Logano and the other three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers besides Edwards — are separated by just two points.
The worst of the Chase drivers in qualifying was Kyle Busch, the defending series champion, who will roll off 19th on Sunday. Johnson wasn’t a lot better, qualifying 16th.