After weather forced qualifying to be cancelled on Friday evening at Dover International Speedway, the starting grid was set by the rulebook. Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Axalta team rolled off 12th on Sunday afternoon for 400 miles of racing. Consistent racing from Bowman allowed the team to remain inside the top 15 for most of Stage One. On Lap 12, Bowman radioed to the Axalta team that his Camaro ZL1 was a little free. Just 10 laps later, the driver relayed that the longer the team ran, the looser the car became. The team called the Axalta machine to pit road on Lap 72 for a green-flag pit stop for four tires and fuel.
After a cycle of green-flag pit stops midway through the stage, Bowman was shuffled back to 21st by Lap 80. The driver was back up to 17th on Lap 91. On the final lap of Stage One, Bowman made a successful pass on another competitor to ensure that he was the first car one lap down. As the stage concluded, Bowman was scored in the 15th position and received the “Lucky Dog” and was back on the lead lap. Crew chief Greg Ives called Bowman to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment following the stage. The team was set to restart from the 14th position when the field took the green flag for Stage Two.
By Lap 143, the 25-year-old driver radioed to Ives that he was having to over slow the car early in the center. Bowman remained inside the top 15 for most of the second stage. Ives called Bowman to pit road for a green-flag pit stop on Lap 190 for four tires, fuel and a small adjustment to help the car’s handling. Following these green-flag pit stops, Bowman was scored in the 16th position on Lap 211. The leader was within car lengths of Bowman and ended up getting past the No. 88 machine prior to the stage ending, putting the team one lap down. The driver knew that he needed to be the first car one lap down in order to get the lucky dog, so Bowman continued to battle on track.
At the conclusion of Stage Two, Bowman had advanced two positions and finished 14th and was one lap down. The team, again, received the “Lucky Dog” and Bowman was able to get the free pass. Following a pit stop for four tires and fuel at the stage end, Bowman restarted from the 14th position for the final stage of the 400-lap event. By Lap 306, the Axalta machine was scored in the 12th position. With under 80 laps to go in the race, green-flag pit stops got underway once again. Ives brought the driver to pit road on for a green flag pit stop for four tires, fuel and another adjustment to continue helping the cars handling.
The Tucson, Arizona native, was running in the top-10 following a run of green-flag stops. The fourth caution of the day was shown on Lap 391 for an incident in Turn 3. Ives elected to call Bowman to pit road for right side tires and fuel only. Only three cars stayed out on track under this caution and Bowman restarted fifth. Two laps after taking the green flag, the Axalta team was involved in a five-car incident on the backstretch. Unfortunately, the damage was too severe and the team’s day was done. Bowman was scored with a 28th place finish at the end of the event.
Chase Elliott captured his second career NASCAR Cup Series win and clinched a spot in the Round of 8.
We were probably going to come away with a fifth-to-seventh-place finish there at the least. Just a bummer it all ended up this way.
Quoting Alex Bowman:
“The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) kind of got tagged and started wrecking. I thought he was going to get to the bottom of the race track faster than he did. Dover is typically so self-cleaning, but he slid a little longer than I thought he would and I kind of just center-punched him. Watching the replay there was really nowhere to go. I wish I would have at least tried to go left, but that’s part of it. Greg (Ives, crew chief) did a good job getting the car better all day today. It’s a bummer, it could have been a really good day for us.”
Via Hendrick Motorsports