DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Brendan Marks/Charlotte Observer) - Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't behind the wheel of the No. 88 car anymore, but his replacement is already carrying on the car's storied legacy.
Alex Bowman, Earnhardt's replacement at Hendrick Motorsports, won the pole Sunday for next weekend's Daytona 500, the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series season. It is Bowman's second career pole, the other coming at Phoenix in 2016 when he was subbing for an injured Earnhardt.
"We knew we were going for the pole; that's what we're here to do," Bowman said. "I did everything I could do, but it really comes down to the crew and all the guys back at the shop."
Bowman rotated with Jeff Gordon in 2016 when Earnhardt missed half the season due to concussions, but this will be his first season as a full-time driver at Hendrick.
Joining Bowman on the front row for the Daytona 500 is Denny Hamlin, who had the second-fastest qualifying time. The rest of the order for the 500 will be determined on Thursday in the Can-Am Duels.
Some other notes from Sunday's qualifying rounds: