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February 10, 2019

Alex Bowman

Rick Hendrick

Daytona Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We're going to get started with our media availabilities here following Busch Pole Qualifying at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the 61st annual Daytona 500. We are joined by Alex Bowman, who posted the second fastest time in qualifying today and will start on the front row alongside his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Alex drives the No.88 Nationwide Chevrolet.
We are also joined by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. Hendrick Motorsports has won 13 Daytona 500 poles, including the last five in a row, both of which are records, and this will also be the youngest front row in Daytona 500 history.

Q. Rick, you guys have seemingly had, at least based on qualifying, obviously, the fastest cars here for the past five years. Last one I believe you guys won was five with Dale, and Jimmie before that. Do you feel like y'all have had the best cars and circumstances have taken you out? How frustrating has it been to have the situation in Turn 4 just when you know you've got a really fast car?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, it's always tough when you run this race, and we led a lot of laps, and we just haven't been able to close the deal. But that's part of it down here. We kind of look at it like it's multiple races. You know, you've got to qualify‑‑ when I started, you just wanted to make the field, and nervous not to get in the race.
We put a lot of emphasis on trying to sit on the pole and go for the front row. So I think we've got the speed. We've got to get the handling now down, and I think this is our second year with this car, so I think we're going to be in good shape. So we'll see.
It's a very competitive race, and you've got a lot of things that are not under your control.

Q. Can't resist because Alex wasn't here the other day, saying that you guys have still to set a date for this big match racethat we've been hearing about ‑‑
ALEX BOWMAN: You're killing me. You're killing me.

Q. He was almost throwing the gauntlet down. I'm not trying to throw him under the bus, but I was wondering at some point if you're going to actually set him up and set him down? He was pretty cocky about it.
ALEX BOWMAN: Oh, wow, no, not at all.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, he started it. For the record, he started it. I didn't. But I'm going to finish it. It's going to happen here in the next probably 90 days.
ALEX BOWMAN: He told me in between rounds of qualifying that if I beat him, it would be bad for my career.
RICK HENDRICK: No pressure.

Q. On a serious note, no matter what happens in the race or no matter what happens the rest of the season, because we could talk about you've done well, but how valuable is this for your sponsors, for your partners, your stakeholders to have this moment in the sun, so to speak, because this weekend kind of belongs to you guys now with this front row? How valuable is it overall?
RICK HENDRICK: It's really valuable. I mean, you're right, you've got a whole week to celebrate this. Our sponsors, we've got everybody coming. This is one of the largest crowds of sponsors we have that's going to be here the next week. Allied is brand new. Their CEO was on the phone. My phones were blowing up. The Nationwide folks, their folks are coming. You know, AXALTA took a chance on a young guy.
So it's really neat for the sponsors to say, hey, we like these young guys and we're going to support them. It's really good for Chad to come out of the box with he and William to sit on the front row. William is his age. So it's a big morale booster. No secret we didn't have the year we wanted last year, so coming out of the gate, no matter what happens, we get to celebrate this for a week.
I've been down here when I had a car in the back, one in the front, one in the middle qualifying, and then you have to answer to sponsors, well, why aren't you giving them the same stuff. I've had that question for 35 years, or as many years as I've run two cars. So this year to have them right on top of each other just means that the organization did a heck of a job, engine shop, body shop, teams working together.
You're right, man, this is the deal, to sit on the pole at Daytona.

Q. Alex, usually second place is, meh, but in this case it means something. Can you talk about that?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's so cool to be part of HMS one, two, three, four. That's really neat and just shows how well everybody is working together. You know, to be locked into that front row barring a disaster in the Duel is really neat and kind of lets us focus on getting our car driving really well and learning what we can through the Clash and the Duel and everything. It's cool to be a part of.
You always want one spot more, and it would be cool to have another Daytona 500 pole, but it's cool to see William get that. I'm proud of the 24 team as well as the 88 team and just really focused on learning what I can in the next week and being the most prepared I can for the 500.

Q. Alex, you got kind of the same kind of start a year ago and didn't get the payoff. Will you do anything different? Is there something you've thought about as far as the approach to the 500 and the Duels that you can maybe use to make yourself stronger and more ready for Sunday and give yourself a better chance?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, absolutely. I hadn't speedway raced in over a year last year going into the Duel and the 500, so that was a tough spot for me to try to kind of get caught back up to where things were at rather quickly.
So I think we ran really strong in the 500. We ran up front for a good amount of the day, and really we had a really good shot at it, and I just kind of butchered the last restart and didn't do a good job there and then got caught up in crash.
You know, I've played that restart through my mind. I think we figured out where I messed up and I knew what I did wrong as soon as I did it, but we fixed that that week and moved on from it.
You know, I'm definitely more confident going into this year. This car has got more handling built into it I feel like. I feel like it's just going to drive better and I'll be able to be more aggressive, and we're still obviously really fast. I'm just ready to go, and like I said, I'm going to do my best to learn what I can throughout the week with the Clash and the Duel, but I'm really confident going into the 500.

Q. Rick, do you have a message to the 24 and 88 teams on how to race on Thursday? And if you do, what is it?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I have had messages in restrictor plate racing all of my racing life and they never listen to me. I think, hey, draft together, and then they don't. Try, but‑‑ we want them to take care of the cars for sure. We want to be in the Sunday race, and we don't want to put the cars in any unnecessary harm's way, but we're going to‑‑ we've got to find out what we've got so we're going to race. It's kind of a two‑edged sword when you're on the front row. You don't want to take a chance on tearing up a really good car, but you've got to figure out what you have, too. So we're going to race.

Q. Rick, it's obvious you guys were burning the midnight oil in the off‑season, very much so. Where would you say you made the greatest gains because I know you didn't want a repeat of last year and you're to be congratulated for all you've accomplished thus far?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, this is one race with this car and then we go to a new setup altogether when we leave here. But I think‑‑ and to sit on the pole, to be fast here, it takes everything. You're stacking pennies in the engine shop. They work really hard. And you find a horsepower here and one there, and the bodies are in the wind tunnel, and it's just a tremendous team effort to build a car and not make any mistakes.
The cars were just dead equal in the wind tunnel. The engines were within one horsepower. I mean, that's hard to do, and they were right on top of each other. You know, guys did their job, and I thought the Fords were going to be really fast and the Toyotas, too, but we‑‑ I don't know where we picked up as much as we did. It was just a little bit in every area.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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