Clint Bowyer almost grabbed the pole during the qualifying session for the 59th edition of Daytona 500. Bowyer placed fourth after leading the spot on the timing pylon on the Daytona International Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. topped last Sunday's race.
The qualifying report was Bowyer's first official outing in the car at the Great American Race. He took over the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for the three-time champion Tony Stewart who retired last year. His fourth-place finish is a huge confidence boost not only for him but also for his team, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
Bowyer's teammates include Danica Patrick and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Harvick was seventh in the Daytona 2017 qualifying.
The 2012 Cup championship runner-up was enthusiastic when qualifying closed. When asked about his SHR team, Bowyer considered it as a great effort. He noted what his co-drivers had gone through all season long including the switch from Chevrolet to Ford.
"It feels good to be competitive again," said Bowyer. "I was down here last year, and we were way off the pace. It was crushing because you know deep down you don't even have a chance and when you've got a car like this -- a hot rod like this and a team like this -- I've got a chance.''
The SHR team was all appreciative of Bowyer's promising start. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz believes that Bowyer's first time out is a big progression for Stewart-Haas. He attributed the team's performance to the research and development group, those who are working in the body shop, and the aero engineers.
The 2016 season was very frustrating for Bowyer. He raced for HScott Motorsports while waited for his seat at SHR to be available after Tony Stewart's retirement. He was with HScott in the interim following the closure of his Michael Waltrip Racing team.