Clint Bowyer has heard enough about it. The second year Richard Childress Racing wheel man made the Chase for the Championship, but is the only one of the 12 drivers that made the championship cut-off that doesn't have a win this season. He...
Clint Bowyer has heard enough about it.
The second year Richard Childress Racing wheel man made the Chase for the Championship, but is the only one of the 12 drivers that made the championship cut-off that doesn't have a win this season.
He took a big step towards that objective when he laid down the fastest qualifying lap for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway (1:00 p.m. ET on ABC).
"I'm really excited," said Bowyer, who put down a fast lap time of 130.412 miles per hour on the 1.058 mile circuit. "That was a good lap. I'm really excited about our car in race trim. I think his is what this team needs. Starting this Chase with a pole is a good step in the right direction."
Bowyer's best career finish was a third at Bristol three weeks ago and he feels like his team has a good handle on the new Car of Tomorrow.
"I wasn't a big fan of these things starting out, but I'm becoming a more of a fan now," said Bowyer, who claimed his first career pole at Darlington in May. "Our track record certainly is pretty good with this car and you know it's going to be a big part of this Chase."
Bowyer is hoping that a good start to the Chase - and hopefully a victory - would help change people's minds about his chances of winning the championship.
"We've just got to get this Jack Daniels Chevrolet in victory lane," said Bowyer, who finished second to Martin Truex Jr. for the Busch Series championship in 2005. "I think we can do it. We've got a really good car in race trim. We made some good changes to the car and the car really reacted to it. I'm pretty excited about the race."
Truex will also start on the front row after putting down a fast lap of 130.255 MPH. He was the second of four Chase contenders that took the top four spots.
"I think I should have got a little bit more," said Truex, who also started second at Chicagoland. "I was a little too loose off. I didn't quite roll the car down in the center fast enough. It was a good lap for us. The guys are doing an awesome job and we're having some fun."
2004 champion Kurt Busch is looking for his fifth straight top-10 finish. He qualified third.
"It's great news for the Miller Lite Dodge and bad news for the competitors I hope," said Busch, who swept both races at Loudon in 2004. "We want to get those five (bonus) points for leading a lap and that could come early on starting third. It's a Chase field up front. Everybody is going to be strong. It's good to get off to a strong start here. It feels good. We're just looking for a smooth run."
Points leader Jimmie Johnson is coming off of consecutive wins at Fontana and last weekend in Richmond. He put down the fourth fastest lap.
"I think I got through (turns) 1 and 2 well and was probably on pace and then through 3 and 4 the car was just a little too comfortable down there and I took a little too long to get through the center," said Johnson, who had the fastest car in the practice session earlier in the day. "You'd like for it to be comfortable and fast at the same time, but with this Car of Tomorrow, you've got to be a little more on edge to get all you can out of it on a lap."
Newman rounded out the top-five while Chase contender Tony Stewart qualified sixth.
Chaser Kevin Harvick qualified 8th while Carl Edwards, who wrecked his primary car in practice on Friday morning, rallied for an 11th place starting spot with his back-up car. Kyle Busch qualified 12th and Denny Hamlin, who won the race here in July, qualified 14th. Jeff Gordon was 18th fastest and Jeff Burton qualified 23rd while Matt Kenseth was the worst qualifier among the Chase competitors. The 2003 series champion will start 31st on Sunday.
Three-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. was attempting to qualify for his first NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race. He had the fifth fastest car in the morning practice session, but slipped a bit in qualifying and missed the field. He plans to make another attempt to qualify next week at Dover.
"It's really been an eye opener today," the Ohio native said. "I'm just trying to get some seat time. The toughest thing for me is knowing that anytime we go out there for qualifying, we really have to put it to the edge, that we're never guaranteed a spot. It's a good experience to finally come here now and have some more information."
Hornish will attempt to qualify for the next four COT races and possibly two others for Penske Racing South with a possible plan to race full time in NASCAR's premiere division in 2008.
"I'd say that we're about 50/50," said Hornish, who won the Indianapolis 500 from the pole in 2006. "We haven't decided yet what we're going to do. It's really not only my decision, but also the teams and as well the sponsors. This is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. I know how difficult it is and how extremely competitive it is. I hope we get to run a lot of races. I'm having a lot of fun and I feel really blessed."
For the second straight week, Michael Waltrip looped his car on his qualifying lap and missed the field. Dale Jarrett, Jeremy Mayfield, Kevin Lepage and John Andretti also failed to make the cut.