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Byron and Bowman make it all-Hendrick front row at Charlotte

JENNA FRYER

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — William Byron and Alex Bowman led Hendrick Motorsports to a sweep of the front row in qualifying Friday for the first elimination race of the NASCAR playoffs.

Byron went 103.198 mph around the hybrid road course/oval track at Charlotte Motor Speedway that was reconfigured last season to spice up the playoff stop at one of NASCAR's premier race tracks. It's the fifth pole of Byron's career and second this season at the home track for the Charlotte native.

"The guys did a great job with this car. It really takes every corner getting around this race track to get a pole," Byron said. "I knew we could qualify in the top-five but I was really wanting a pole and really kind of went out there and got it."

Byron went karting this week with driver coach Max Papis, and crew chief Chad Knaus attended.

"It helped," Byron said. "You know, road courses were a big struggle for me when I first started racing and I've progressively gotten better and I really enjoy them now. Now, it's all about racing and it's good to have two hometown poles — that's pretty cool."

Byron has started on the front row of all three road courses this season (he started second at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen). He is in the 12th and final spot to advance to the second round of the playoffs but has only a two-point edge over Bowman headed into Sunday's race.

The bottom four in the standings are Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones, who dropped to last in the 16-driver field when his car failed post-race inspection last weekend at Richmond.

Reigning series champion Joey Logano qualified third, followed by Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson, who is not in the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Bowyer qualified fifth and was followed by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick. Martin Truex Jr., winner of the first two playoff races, qualified eighth and was followed by Ryan Blaney and Paul Menard.

Busch qualified 23rd while Jones, who likely must win to advance, was 15th.

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