CHASE FOR THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP
ROUND 9 OF 10
PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
TEAM CHEVY QUALIFYING NOTES AND QUOTES
NOVEMBER 11, 2016
ALEX BOWMAN PUTS TEAM CHEVY ON THE POLE AT PHOENIX
Chevrolet Sweeps Top Three Starting Spots, and Six of Top 10
PHOENIX (November 11, 2016) – Alex Bowman piloting the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS for the injured Dale Earnhardt, Jr., earned his first career pole after making only his ninth start in the Hendrick Motorsports Chevy, the 23-year-old Tucson, Arizona native laid down a lap of 25.619 seconds/140.521 mph to earn the top starting spot for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Bowman led a contingent of ‘young guns’ qualifying in the front of the field at PIR. 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson, placed his No. 42 Target Chevrolet on the outside front row, earning his best every starting spot at the 1-mile desert venue. While this season’s leading rookie, Chase Elliott, will climb behind the wheel of his No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet SS and take the green flag from the third position, also a career best.
All but needing a victory on Sunday in order to advance to the Championship Four final round of this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship playoff, Kevin Harvick, placed his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS in the sixth starting position. The most successful driver at PIR with eight victories to his credit, has a solid starting spot as he goes for win number nine and an opportunity to battle for the championship crown at Homestead next weekend.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and fellow Chase driver, Kurt Busch, earned the 12th starting position for Sunday’s 312-lap/312-mile contest at PIR. Busch is also in an all but, must win situation in order to advance to the final round of the Chase for the first time in his career under the current playoff format. The driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS has one previous win at PIR coming back in 2005.
Austin Dillon, No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS and Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet SS also earned top 10 starting positions during this afternoon’s qualifying session at PIR. Dillon and McMurray will start seventh and ninth respectively as they both contend for their first victories of the season.
Joey Logano (Ford) will start fourth and Denny Hamlin (Toyota) will roll off the starting grid in the fifth position to round out the top five qualifiers.
The ninth race of the 10-race Chase playoff from Phoenix International Raceway is scheduled to begin Sunday, November 11 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Live coverage of the 312-lap/500-km contest will be available on NBCSN, MRN, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and NASCAR.com.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS – POLE-WINNER
THIS HAS TO BE AN INCREDIBLE FEELING.
“If you would have asked me at any point in the last year if I would have a Cup pole in my career, I would have told you were crazy. So I’m very thankful to get this opportunity… obviously not under the circumstances that anyone would want. But I’m trying to make the most of it and having a lot of fun. I have to thank the Henrick engine shop. Obviously we have great horsepower. Everybody on this team did an awesome job. We really weren’t that great in qualifying trim during practice. I’m not sure where this came from but I’ll take it and hopefully we can stay up front on Sunday.”
AFTER RUNNING YOUR POLE LAP, WHY DID YOU RUN THAT THIRD LAP?
“I didn’t know what anyone had run before. You never know. Sometimes you run a third lap and it’s faster. I knew we had a good lap because we got on the rev limiter into Turn Three, and we hadn’t done that all weekend. So I knew it was a good one. In the session before, the fastest lap was a .65 so the dash isn’t always that accurate; it’s a couple of hundredths off typically. I didn’t really know what my time was especially compared to other people. So I didn’t think it would hurt anything as long as we didn’t wad it up.”
CAN YOU GIVE US A REFRESHER ON YOUR HISTORY HERE. DO YOU STILL HAVE FAMILY IN TUSCON. DID YOU EVER COME TO RACES OUT HERE?
“Yes, my whole family still lives out here. I’m the only one that moved to North Carolina. I convinced Joe Custer from Stewart-Haas Racing to let me live with him when I was 16. I think the first time I was here at the track when I was seven racing a quarter-midget here. Then they moved it around the track. So I raced quarter-midgets in the parking lots here and watched a lot of races here. To be honest, I probably watched more Copper World Classic between sprint cars and quarter-midgets, Silver Crown races and Super Modifides and stuff that was super-insane around this place. So that was always really cool as a kid. One of my fondest memories is that I got to race in the last midget race they had here. It’s always been a place that’s been close to my heart.”
DO YOU HAVE AT LEAST ONE RIDE FOR NEXT YEAR NOW? THE UNLIMITED THIS YEAR INCLUDED THE POLE WINNERS FROM THE PREVIOUS YEARS…
“I told Greg (Ives) that I just bought a house that has a shop attached to it. We could take one of their backup speedway cars, call it Greg Ives Racing and go from there. We’ve been close. Charlotte was close and we were wondering what would happen if we got a pole. We knew it was possible but never had a serious conversation about it.”
“I like building race cars more than I like building them. I have a sprint car and a couple of midgets. I built one to go to the Chili Bowl last year and then I’m building another to go to Chili Bowl next year so I’m going to take two cars. I’m not going to race it this year but I have a kid driving it but I’m really excited about it.”
WHO’S GOING TO DRIVE YOUR CHILI BOWL CARS?
“I’ve gone through more drivers than I think any car owner has without getting to the race track. I think Justin Grant is going to drive it. He’s someone I grew up around a little bit. He’s a kid that has never gotten really good equipment, kind of like my story. Last year, I think he put the heaviest car in the building into the show Saturday night at Chili Bowl. I have in my eyes a really good car and I think we have a shot to win.”
“I drove last year but kind of try to forget. I didn’t do that good and made a few mistakes.”
YOU SAID EARLIER YOUR DAY-TO-DAY WORK IS WORK WITH HENDRICK ON A SIMULATOR. DOES THAT HELP WITH QUALIFYING?
“It’s very helpful. We use it for absolutely everything we can. We’re always using it and trying to make things better. Ironically I wasn’t in the simulator for Phoenix. I think the other three guys were and I wasn’t. It’s a great group of guys there to work with and we have a lot of fun together.”
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED SECOND
CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH THAT LAP OF YOURS? YOU CAME PRETTY DARN CLOSE TO POLE.
“I guess there’s a couple of things I could have done differently. I thought I missed my marks into Turn One. I was up a groove. But then I got down the backstretch really good and actually hit the rev limiter going into Turn Three, so that surprised me. I didn’t get wide open soon enough off Turn Four, which probably hurt my speed more than anything. It was close getting the pole.
“It was cool for Alex Bowman to get it. He grew up not too far from here and doesn’t have a full-time deal. So for him to do that is pretty big. I definitely would have liked to have been on the pole but we’ll take a front-row start.”
HOW BIG WOULD IT BE TO PLAY THE ROLE OF SPOILER ON SUNDAY AND WIN WHEN ONE OF THESE CHASE GUYS DIDN’T?
“It would be big for anyone to win. Phoenix the last year-and-a-half hasn’t been a good track for me, for whatever reason. I don’t think I’ve ever really raced that good here. We’ll have some work to do. I didn’t think our car in race trim was very good today. But we have some smart people in our hauler that will fix it up and hopefully we’ll get some speed. I always struggle here going fast, taking care of my tires, taking care of the brakes. I just have to focus on hitting my marks and staying smooth and steady.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE GOTTEN BETTER AT THAT AT THESE TYPES OF TRACKS?
“I feel like I’ve gotten a little better. But for some reason I still feel like a struggle with it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Like at Martinsville, I can go fast for 10 laps and then I start slowing down in the center of the corner, try taking care of my tires and still get beat at the end of the run. So then I’ll do another run where I don’t go as hard at the beginning and still go just as slow at the end. I don’t know what I have to do to do better at that. Maybe it’s how I communicate in practice on setup stuff that will help. I constantly try to work at it when we come to short tracks. I feel like I’ve gotten better but have work to do.”
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE PROGRESSED MOST THIS SEASON? WITH TWO RACES LEFT THIS YEAR AND INTO NEXT SEASON, WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU ARE ON THE AGENDA TO GET BETTER AT TO BE IN A BETTER POSITION THIS TIME NEXT YEAR?
“We were so bad to start the year that I felt like our gains were extremely noticeable throughout the first third of the year. Then up until I won at Michigan and a little bit after, I feel like we haven’t gained as much each week as we did earlier in the year. You always try to get better. We’ve made gains but they haven’t been as big of gains because we’re closer to where we need to be. Every time we come down to the end of year we’re trying stuff. I think we’ve had some decent runs. We haven’t had a whole lot of luck in the last eight races that we’ve run, but we’ve continued to stay positive, work hard and try to make our stuff faster to build the notebook for the offseason and start of next season.”
DO YOU THINK TRAFFIC WILL BE A FACTOR IN THE RACE?
“It’s always hard to pass here, so the further up front you start is good. This is as far forward as I’ve ever started here. It would be nice to get to the lead at the beginning, lead some laps, take care of my stuff and maintain track position which will help the race. It’s a pretty quick race so you can’t make too many mistakes. You have to make the right pit calls. Track position is always important here.”
WHEN THE SERIES COMES BACK TO PHOENIX, THERE IS ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THE RYAN NEWMAN SITUATION FROM A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO ON THE LAST LAP AND IT WAS YOUR ROOKIE YEAR. AS YOU’VE GAINED MORE EXPERIENCE, HOW WISER ARE YOU ABOUT THOSE SITUATIONS? YOU’RE ALSO RACING FOR CERTAIN THINGS AS WELL.
“I was mad and upset for a few minutes but then you realize what was at stake for them. I’m not saying that’s right. But there’s a lot on the line for those contenders. So I don’t know what’s right or wrong, but there’s obviously a lot on the line. Sometimes they have to do what they have to do to gain as many points as they can or get a win.”