Kyle Busch 4/1 to win Monster Energy Cup 2/9/18 — NASCAR Odds

Cope
Earnhardt

Cope Earnhardt

So much for Alex Bowman suffering from the pressure of taking over ride of NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt was a seven-time pole victor at Daytona, too.

"I think it's still a little surreal", Bowman said of replacing Earnhardt, per NASCAR's official site.

Bowman laid down a lap of 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway at a speed of 195.644 miles per hour.

"It's a dream come true just to drive for Hendrick Motorsports", Bowman said. His lap at 195.644 miles per hour was only a few ticks faster than Denny Hamlin, who will be joining Bowman on the front row for the 60th running of the Great American Race.

NASCAR has changed a rule eliminating the post-race ride-height requirement, so now cars at Daytona and Talladega won't have to meet a minimum height after races. The remainder of the field will be set by a pair of qualifying races Thursday. Bowman served as a substitute driver filling in for Earnhardt in 2016 when the popular driver was battling concussion issues. But their Daytona 500 grid positions, along with the rest of the field aside from the front row, will be set based on the Duels.

Busch won the playoffs in 2015 for his only championship.

Byron is beginning his first full season driving the famed No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick. Keselowski had the race in control, and Kyle Larson made contact with Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to trigger an accident that allowed Keselowski an easier route to victory lane. Hendrick put Chevrolet on the pole for the sixth consecutive year.

Bowman and Hamlin also were fastest in the opening round of qualifying.

"We knew we were going for the pole, that's what we're here to do", Bowman told the AP.

"But glad it took off well off pit road, did everything I could do". "I did everything I could do, but it really comes down to the crew and all the guys back at the shop".

Earnhardt tweeted congratulations to Bowman, who downplayed his role.

While she burst into tears seconds after sitting down in front of the microphone to share that news, she's had nearly three months to come to terms with it.

Hamlin was thrilled to have earned such a strong starting spot at second.

"I actually felt like Homestead was that (last race)", Patrick said, via ESPN.

Patrick, 35, got the one-off gig at Daytona thanks to Premium Motorsports, which owns a NASCAR charter that guarantees her a spot in the February 18 restrictor-plate scrum.

Last season, Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing dominated in his #78 Toyota en route to winning his first career championship in the sport.

"We were team Key West", Patrick said. But I'm sure it would have been extra, you know what I mean? The machine says where you are, and everybody has got to be there. You can't really hide at these kinds of racetracks. "We're going to hope that our vehicle handles really good and we can out drive them in race trim". Harvick finished third in 2017 and had two wins last season. The organization entered a handful of races toward the end of the 2017 season with Josh Berry and Matt Mills.

"I didn't think we would run that fast", Harvick admitted.

But she's not. Just days before her last stock auto race, Patrick is at peace with leaving the track.

"It was really just to do Daytona and Indy and The Clash wasn't a priority", she said.

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