Alex Bowman and the Axalta team qualified third for Sunday’s inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The team kept the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 clean throughout practice and qualifying before the event began Sunday afternoon. Shortly after the field took the green flag, Bowman was shuffled back into the fifth position. On Lap 5, the driver was able to get past the No. 47 for the fourth position.
The first caution of the day was shown on Lap 15 for an incident in Turn 1. Under caution, Bowman reported that his Camaro ZL1 wasn’t building as bad as it was yesterday, but that the track was beating up the rear tires. Crew chief Greg Ives elected to keep the Axalta machine out on track under caution and the team restarted sixth. With seven laps to go in the stage, Bowman was scored in the eighth position and would finish the stage ninth.
Ives called Bowman to pit road under the stage ending caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The team restarted 29th after some of the field remained on track during the yellow flag. Bowman had advanced to the 23rd position by Lap 36 and most of the competitors in front of the driver began green flag pit stops one lap later. On Lap 45, Bowman reported that he believed he had hit something fairly large but remained on track. At the conclusion of Stage Two, the driver was scored in the eighth position
Bowman reported to the Axalta team that his car was pretty much the same on that run and that it was really difficult to pass on track. The driver brought the car down pit road for service under the stage ending yellow for four tires and fuel. Through the course of two additional cautions, Ives kept the driver out on track to maintain the team’s position. The sixth caution flag of the day came out on Lap 70 for an incident in Turn 5 and the No. 88 machine came to pit road for four tires and fuel. At this point, teams knew that the race could be won or lost by fuel strategy. The green flag returned on Lap 73 and two laps later the team had advanced into the 16th position.
On Lap 82, Bowman radioed to Ives and asked for a points update. The team relayed to him that he was five points out of the top 12 and that he was racing the No. 12 and 14. On Lap 89 Bowman made a green flag pit stop for four tires and fuel. By Lap 91, the driver was scored in the 26th position following the team’s green flag stop just two laps earlier. A 15-car incident happened in Turn 1 on Lap 105 that brought out the red flag for approximately 14 minutes. Bowman was close to this accident and Ives radioed to the driver to ask if the car hit anything. Bowman relayed that the No. 88 machine was all good and the team remained on track. When the field went back green, the Tucson, Arizona native restarted fifth.
The field took the green flag with three laps to go. Through a very chaotic final lap, Bowman was able to bring home a fourth-place finish in the Bank of America Roval 400. Today’s finish marked Bowman’s third top-five finish of the 2018 season. Following this fourth-place finish, the No. 88 team advanced to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Bowman currently sits 12th in the standings, 55 markers behind the leader.
Quoting Alex Bowman:
“Yeah, making the playoffs kind of made up for the fact that we probably should have won there. We just got boxed in on that last restart. We had 20 lap fresher tires than all the guys in front of us. Things kind of fell our way there at the end to get us up front. Just got boxed in and couldn’t make it happen. Congrats to the No. 12 (Ryan Blaney). We were on the same strategy as them. It is what it is. Glad to make it in to the next round for this No. 88 team and all of our amazing partners. A lot of people said we were going to be one of the guys out after this round. To make it in and prove some of those guys wrong, definitely makes me feel good. There are a lot of tracks in this round that I feel like we could have a good shot at. We will focus forward and prepare for this round.”
Via Hendrick Motorsports