He starts on the pole, and the last time he led the field to the green this year, he led nearly every lap at Atlanta. "I think I was prepared to enjoy this year even last year", said Bowyer, now driving the No. 14 Stewart-Haas auto in the former seat of one of the team's owners.
Daniel Hemric, who started seventh, brought out the first yellow on the day just 13 laps into the race. His best qualifying effort since succeeding three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart comes after consecutive finishes in the top seven at Fontana and Martinsville. The program is being held in conjunction with the 21st annual Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend. Earnhardt had his first top-five finish since a runner-up at Pocono last June, not long before he missed the last half of the season because of lingering concussions symptoms. He's the only driver with two wins on the young season and he's had five top-five fnishes in the first six races. "This is the opportunity you are giddy about no matter where you are at in your career".
Jones will start 36 in Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 driving the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry after missing qualifying when a crash in Friday's practice forced the Furniture Row Racing team to go to a backup vehicle. "It is unfortunate because we were running third and really good on the long run".
"The re-pave takes a lot of patience to get used to", said Jones to the NASCAR broadcast crew right after his pit stop. "And that's what he's kind of doing with Clint, too".
"Yeah, absolutely", he said. I saw we came out a couple spots ahead of the guys we were behind and I knew it would be a good day.
Two years ago, the Byron, Michigan, native went to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway for the first time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Less than five minutes into practice, Cup driver Denny Hamlin spun between Turns 1 and 2 on his second practice lap Friday.
"It's been a good track for me", said Jones, driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. "The first time I came here, it's amusing, it really wasn't that good to me, but after that it just kind of clicked and I felt really good here ever since". His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, went wide on a hairpin turn on his final flying lap, ending up with the fourth-fastest time of the session at 1:33.879.
"I think we were probably a little slower than him for the last few laps - he had so many lapped cars to get around that there was no way he was going to get to us". "We lost our chance to grab the lead on that last pit stop but Erik and his team deserves the credit". He won Stage 1, taking the lead on Lap 20 through Lap 48.
Drivers wary of track: Despite the Xfinity Series logging 200 laps on the recently repaved track Saturday afternoon, drivers are still uncertain about what to expect from the racing surface on Sunday.
The racing groove on the repaved track was narrow at the beginning of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas.
"I always felt really comfortable on the old track here, I knew what I needed the vehicle to do", Jones said.
"This new surface came around, it got better all day", said Jones. Will a year filled with bad news on the ratings front turn around with Sunday's challenge? But it's a nice bounce back over the weekend here of getting a win today [after wrecking his primary Cup vehicle in Friday's practice].
"The repave was really treacherous to start the weekend and this is a nice way to bounce back for myself after going to a backup the other day in the Cup auto", he said. "I hate it. I thought our auto was pretty good, so hopefully this one (the backup) will be just as good, if not better".