NASCAR: Curt Bowyer hot as Chase launches in Loudon

Paul Ring

As the track temperatures cooled at New Hampshire International Speedway, Curt Bowyer got hot.

He knocked Martin Truex Jr. off the pole with a 130.412-mph (29.206-second) qualifying lap with in his No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevy.

"It's exciting," said Boyer, who will start on the inside of the first row for tomorrow's Sylvania 300. "And it's exciting for everyone at (Richard Childress Racing) and the Jack Daniels team. Starting on the pole is a great way to start the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship."

Both Bowyer and Truex are first-time Chase contenders.

Truex took the provisional pole early in the session with a 130.255-mph (29.241-second) lap and it looked as if he might be able to hold on until the clouds rolled in and temperatures plummeted.

"The car was really good in practice," Truex said. "It was a really, really good. But as the temperature kept going down, the track got faster."

He will start second in his No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy. "It's good to run well in qualifying," Truex said, "but it doesn't promise anything on Sunday. We've still got work to do if we want to win."

Chase contenders Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson will start side-by-side in row two. Ryan Newman qualified fifth, followed by another contender, Tony Stewart. Elliot Sadler will start seventh and Kevin Harvick, will start the Chase from eighth position.

Other Chase contenders include, Kyle Busch, who will start 11th; Carl Edwards, who starts 12th; Denny Hamlin, who starts 14th; Jeff Gordon, who starts 18th; Jeff Burton, who starts 23rd; and Matt Kenseth, who will start 30th.

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Joey Logano held off Sean Caisse to win yesterday's NASCAR Busch East Aubuchon Hardware 125 presented by Hardwarestore.com.

Logano was running away with the caution-filled race when another yellow flag came was thrown due to a crash late in the race. The restart with 10 laps left put Caisse in a position to move to the front.

The Pelham, N.H. driver sliced through the field as Logano calmly circulated the track, but Caisse ran out of time.

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Jeff Gordon will become the youngest driver to reach 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series starts when the checkered flag falls tomorrow.

But the four-time champion is downplaying the record in order to focus on this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup.

"I am fired up and ready to fight for the championship," Gordon said. "This year's Chase will most likely come down to the last race, but it's important to gain momentum and start off strong with this race."

He praised his crew on the No. 24 DuPont Chevy. "It's been a great ride with a great team," he said. "I've been fortunate to be with the same sponsor the entire time. It's hard to believe we've won 500 cup races. It tells me I've been racing a lot longer than I thought."

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Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards will be driving the same No. 99 Ford chassis he drove to a 13th-place finish in the Lennox 300 in July. This weekend the car will be wearing the Marriott Vacation Club colors.

"We had an awesome car at Loudon," Edwards said. "It was one of our better Car of Tomorrow races. We just had some trouble in the pits when we were leading and pitting under green, but everybody kept their composure and we were able to pull off a 13th-place finish."

In July, the car wore the Red Sox logo on the hood, and Edwards thrilled the crowd by leading two laps before the pit lane faux pas cost him 47 seconds.

"Our car should have been the race winner," Edwards said, "so obviously I am eager to race (at) Loudon again."

Paul Ring can be reached at 508-626-3821 or pring@cnc.com. Read more in the Catch Can auto racing blog at blogs.metrowestdailynews.com/thecatchcan.