CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Alex Bowman led Hendrick Motorsports to a sweep of the front row in qualifying for the first elimination race in ’s 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 ’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.

Byron 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- 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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