Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Nationwide team had a frustrating day at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The team worked hard throughout the race to help the handling of the race car, but unfortunately the day didn’t improve, and the team was relegated to a 17th-place finish.
On Saturday, Bowman qualified the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in 16th position for the 263-mile race at the famed Virginia short track. Taking the green flag on Sunday, the Arizona native moved into 15th position and raced single file with teammates William Byron and Chase Elliott as the race got underway.
Bowman radioed to crew chief Greg Ives early on that there was little forward drive in the car and it needed rear grip. The Nationwide pit crew completed their first pit stop of the day at Lap 43, giving Bowman four fresh tires and fuel. Unfortunately, the No. 88 was handed a penalty for speeding on pit road and had to drop to the back of the field on the restart.
From Lap 50 to Lap 100, Bowman consistently raced hard and worked his way back up to 17th position and when Stage One ended at Lap 130, Bowman crossed the finish line in 15th place.
During Stage Two of the race, Bowman experienced more handling issues with the car. He radioed to Ives that the car was “super tight in the center of the corner” and later that he couldn’t get into the corner. Unfortunately, there was 75 laps of green flag racing during this stage which didn’t allow the team to pit and make adjustments. Bowman was racing in the 18th position, towards the end of the stage, when he went a lap down to the leaders.
The Nationwide team completed a much-needed pit stop before starting the final stage where Ives called for four tires, fuel and adjustments on the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Bowman started 19th for the final stage of the race but fell to 20th at Lap 282 once the field got sorted into single-file racing. By Lap 300, he had raced his way back up to the 18th position.
It was another long green flag run and then a caution came out at Lap 364 giving the No. 88 pit crew the opportunity to complete a four-tire pit stop. When racing resumed, Bowman fell to the 20th position by Lap 400 and radioed to the crew that the car had “little forward drive.”
With 70 laps to go in the race, the No. 88 machine moved up to 19th position. Twenty laps later, Bowman picked up another position and moved into 18th. Following a caution and the opportunity to make a quick pit stop, it was back to green flag racing with 37 laps to go and the No. 88 was scored in 17th position and back on the lead lap. For the remainder of the race, Bowman worked to pass but was relegated with a 17th place finish.
“It was a really frustrating day. The car wasn’t at all like it was in practice, and it got away from us.”Alex Bowman
With a solid starting position, William Byron and the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team had high hopes coming into Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway. Unfortunately, damage from an incident on pit road created problems for the No. 24 team that led to a broken brake rotor, causing an early end to the afternoon for Byron and the team.
Taking the green flag in 11th, Byron battled the handling on his No. 24 Liberty University Chevy in the early going. When the first caution flag waved on Lap 43, the NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year contender was 17th. Byron radioed that his race car was tight in the center, but loose on entry, identifying the loose entry as what was hurting him the most. With a quick pit stop for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, the Liberty University pit crew gained two spots on pit road, putting Byron 15th for the restart. He fell to 19th by the time the next caution occurred on Lap 72, but stayed out on the track during the caution period and lined up 17th for the next restart. Byron continued to fight the loose-in condition throughout the remainder of Stage 1 and ended the segment in 29th.
During the stage break, Byron brought the No. 24 Liberty University Camaro to pit road, but another competitor made contact with the No. 24 Chevy as Byron was trying to get into his pit stall, sending Byron spinning backwards into his stall. After getting turned around, Byron was able to get the car into the pit stall, but he lost a lap to the leaders in the process, and the contact resulted in damage that ripped one of the brake cooling hoses off the Liberty University Chevy. Nevertheless, the No. 24 team was able to get Byron back out on the track and he lined up 34th for the beginning of Stage 2.
The lack of the cooling hose meant Byron had to conserve his brakes as much as possible during the next run. He persisted and began to make up ground during the second segment. He lost another lap to the leaders but managed to move up eight positions to finish Stage 2 in 26th. He radioed that his Chevy was wheel-hopping frequently on corner entry and mentioned that he was having to be very careful with the brakes. During the stage break, the No. 24 pit crew pulled tape off the grill to try to help keep the brakes cool, along with providing Byron with four fresh tires and fuel.
Byron lined up 26th for the final segment and continued to manage his brakes as he averaged top-eight lap times. He picked up a position and was running 25th when he told the Liberty University crew over the radio on Lap 345 that he was losing brake pressure. Byron fell to 27th before a brake rotor broke on the No. 24 Chevy, sending him into the wall. The contact ended Byron’s day, relegating him to a 39th-place finish.
Chase Elliott led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the finish line, taking the checkered flag in seventh. He was followed to the line by Jimmie Johnson in 12th and Alex Bowman in 17th.