Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Nationwide team were the fastest qualifying Chevrolet on Friday night after qualifying 10th for the 267-lap event on Sunday. The 25-year-old driver had advanced two positions within the first two laps of the event to the eighth position. On Lap 3, Bowman received some right-side damage after the No. 19 of Daniel Suarez got into the wall in front of him. Spotter Kevin Hamlin relayed to the Nationwide team that the damage wasn’t severe, and the team remained on track.
On Lap 20, Bowman reported that his Camaro ZL1 was a little free, especially when he was turning off the center. Shortly after, the driver made contact with the outside wall, but remained on track after telling the team that he didn’t see any smoke. Under green on Lap 39, crew chief Greg Ives called Bowman to pit road for four tires, fuel and right-side damage repair. The caution was shown on Lap 58 for fluid on the racing surface. While the safety crews cleaned up pit road, the Nationwide team made a plan to make repairs to the right side of Bowman’s ride under caution. Once pit road was open, the No. 88 machine came down pit road for four tires and fuel. When the normal pit stop was complete, the team went to work on the right side.
Once Bowman returned to the track, he restarted in the 19th position. The team gained three positions on the first lap after the restart and Bowman continued his drive forward. At the conclusion of Stage One, Bowman was scored in the 14th position and reported that the car was too tight on exit. Ives brought the Nationwide Camaro ZL1 to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. After coming to pit road 14th, the Nationwide pit crew gained three spots on pit road and Bowman restarted 11th.
For the majority of Stage Two, Bowman ran the high line and was inside the top 10. On Lap 114, Bowman reported that his car was pretty good and pretty stable on entry. Approximately 15 laps later, Bowman hit pit road for a green flag pit stop for four tires and fuel. By Lap 154, the driver radioed that his car was better on the previous run, because he had more rear security. At the conclusion of Stage Two, Bowman was scored in the ninth position and earned some stage points. Under the stage ending caution, Ives called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and additional tape. Bowman restarted 12th.
Bowman quickly re-entered the top 10 and eventually passed his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, for the ninth position. On Lap 198, Bowman reported that he was fighting to turn off of the center and that the back end was out of the track. Ives called the Nationwide machine to pit road on Lap 213 for another green flag stop. The Nationwide crew changed four tires, added fuel and made a wedge adjustment. With 25 laps to go in the event, Bowman was scored in the eighth position. Bowman would cross the line ninth at the end of the 400.5-mile event and would not advance into the Round of 8.
This was Bowman’s 11th top-10 finish this season. Chase Elliott and the No. 9 team captured the victory in Kansas.
“We had to fix damage throughout the day. We had a better car than that. I don’t know that we had a race-winning car. I thought the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) was super good on long runs. We were, I thought, much better than him on the short runs. But on the long runs he just ate us up. Congrats to him on the win. We’ll move on to next week.”
Bowman on what he can take from today for the rest of the season and on into 2019:
“We keep bringing fast race cars to the track and just not executing great, but not doing a bad job either. We’ve just got to keep getting faster. Our cars have come a long way, so to see Chase get three wins here now, is pretty cool. He’s kind of on fire. So hopefully we can get up front in the next couple of weeks.”
Bowman on what sticks out most to him about the playoffs:
“It really started with Dover and getting caught up in somebody else’s mess after overcoming a lot and running fifth toward the end. And then, me, just being in a position where I kind of had to be a little overly aggressive in Talladega and then it comes down to not even having a shot today. So, it’s been a pretty frustrating three races for us because I felt like it could have been a really good three races for us. And we probably should have finished fifth at Dover and somewhere in the top 5 at Talladega and then had a solid day here. So, unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Hopefully next week will be better.”
Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, William Byron had just radioed to the crew that the handling of No. 24 UniFirst Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 had really started to come in when the engine expired on Lap 55, ending his day. The NASCAR Cup Series rookie of the year contender called it “the best car we’ve had,” which is a very positive sign considering there are still a few more intermediate-sized tracks coming up at the end of the season.
Rolling off the grid 17th, Byron moved up a spot to 16th within the first four laps of the 400-mile race. Midway through the first run, he radioed to the No. 24 UniFirst crew that the car was a little loose, but after a green-flag pit stop for four tires and fuel, Byron was looking to improve his position. The cycle of pit stops had just finished, and he was back up to 16th, gaining ground on the competitors in front of him, when he reported a blown engine. The engine trouble relegated Byron and the No. 24 UniFirst team to a 38th-place finish.
Quoting William Byron:
“That was the best car we’ve had. Usually, that seems like how it works. But we were making pretty good ground. We came out after our green-flag stop in a decent spot. We were kind of mired between the two guys we were before. Overall the car was good, and the motor just blew up. There’s nothing you can do but look forward to the next race.”