The 41-year-old Owen, the winner of the European Tour's 2003 British Masters, had an eagle, seven birdies and three bogeys at River Run. He had an 8-under 136 total.
"It's not easy out there," Owen said. "The greens are quick and the wind was blowing around, but I got away with a few loose shots."
The bulk of the field is made up of players in the top 75 on the Web.com Tour money list and Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings. The top 25 on the Web.com money list are assured PGA Tour cards, while the other players are fighting for 25 additional cards through earnings in the four-event series.
Owen was 134th in the FedEx Cup standings.
"I'm not thinking about position," Owen said. "I just know that I got to play better than I did today. I'm not worried about the lead on Friday afternoon."
Colombia's Camilo Benedetti was a stroke back along with Kris Blanks, Andrew Svoboda and Will MacKenzie. Benedetti and Blanks shot 67, Svoboda had a 65, and MacKenzie a 68.
"I've got the right attitude right now," said MacKenzie, who missed the cut last week in the series opener in Fort Wayne, Ind. "I'm just trying to take care of my business over the ball. ...
Svoboda finished 26th on the Web.com money list to just miss out on a card.
Peter Malnati, Ben Kohles and Hudson Swafford were 6 under. Malnati had a 68, and Kohles and Swafford shot 71.
Trevor Immelman, the winner last week in Fort Wayne, missed the cut by a stroke with rounds of 73 and 72.