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Alex Bowman is off to a hot start in the lead-up to the 2018 NASCAR season after being tasked with following in the footsteps of Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's 15-time Most Popular Driver and a seven-time Daytona pole victor. Six of Earnhardts 17 career victories at Daytona International Speedway came in that vehicle, including one of his Daytona 500 victories.

Introduced as "a former pole winner" in a news conference Saturday morning about her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500, Patrick immediately interrupted the moderator.

Earnhardt retired past year after missing half of the 2016 season, though he will be at the track serving as grand marshal for the season-opening race. Bowman will be racing in the Daytona 500 for just the second time in his career.

Denny Hamlin will line up alongside Bowman after recording a speed of 195.092 miles per hour in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to nab the second starting spot for the "Great American Race".

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Sunday's two-round, single-car qualifying session only produced the front row for the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). And really, it's a process she said she's been immersed in throughout much of 2017. Bowman elected to stay with Hendrick Motorsports as a test and simulation driver in 2017 instead of drive for another team and was rewarded with the job of being Earnhardt Jr.'s replacement in 2018. Hendrick is now tied with Harry Ranier for the record of most consecutive Daytona 500 poles at four. The remainder of the field will be set by a pair of qualifying races Thursday. Although qualifying utilizes the same three-round knockout format found at other tracks, unless a driver qualifies on the front row, their starting position is not guaranteed. 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. "Trust me, that is pressure", Truex said.

"It's worked very well, but we learn every day, nearly with every auto", Probst said. "Right? That's how I feel", she said. There's not a whole lot you can do when you get down here. We've already changed some things that we do here with lineups, how we roll the cars on and how we stage the cars, where we stage the crew members. I'm so thankful to be able to do this.

"Imagine when you leave here on Sunday, you don't have anything to do really for a couple of months. I think the hard part was getting to that point".


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