LAS VEGAS — Stewart-Haas Racing surged into the opening race of NASCAR’s playoffs with a Clint Bowyer-led sweep of the front two rows at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Joe Gibbs Racing, meanwhile, struggled across the board in its preparation for Sunday’s opening playoff race. While SHR put its four Fords in the top four slots, the Gibbs Toyotas qualified in the middle of the pack with Erik Jones the slowest of the 16 playoff drivers.
Gibbs as an organization is considered the favorite in NASCAR’s 10-race run to the Cup championship, and the poor qualifying Saturday was as surprising as Bowyer’s pole-winning run. Bowyer had to claw his way into the playoff field, is seeded 15th, and last won a pole 12 years ago to the day at New Hampshire.