Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Axalta team qualified fifth for the second-to-last race of the 2018 season at ISM Raceway. Early into the 312-mile race, Bowman got shuffled back into the 11th position. After 13 laps, Bowman radioed to his Axalta team that his Camaro ZL1 was free in and tight center. During the long green flag run in Stage One, the Arizona native maintained position and remained quiet on the radio.
On Lap 48, the driver radioed to the team that his Chevrolet was tighter in Turns 3 and 4. With 30 laps to go in the stage, Bowman was scored in the 10th position. At the conclusion of the stage, Bowman was scored in the ninth position. Crew chief Greg Ives called for the driver to come to pit road for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a wedge adjustment. The Axalta machine rolled off 12th for the Stage Two start.
The second caution of the day was shown on Lap 97 for a spin in Turn 1. Under caution, Bowman reported that his Axalta machine was getting loose on entry and not cutting the center the way he needed it to. Ives called the team to pit road for another four-tire stop, no adjustments. Shortly after the field took the green flag once again, the 25-year-old driver was running in the eighth position and was quiet on the radio.
On Lap 135, the third caution was shown for an incident on track. Bowman reported that his car was free in and off the corners. Under yellow, the team hit pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The No. 88 Axalta team was handed an uncontrolled tire penalty following the stop and Bowman had to restart at the tail-end of the field. The driver had his eyes set out front and had worked his way up to the 14th position by the conclusion of Stage Two.
Under the stage ending caution, Ives elected to have the driver hit pit road for right side tires and fuel. On Lap 185, the team was scored in the 10th position. Less than 20 laps later, Bowman radioed to Ives that his car was extremely tight. The crew chief called the No. 88 machine to pit road on Lap 227 for a scheduled green flag stop for tires and fuel. While Bowman was on pit road, the caution flag was shown for spin in Turn 2. The Axalta team finished the stop and Bowman took the wave around before the field took the green on Lap 236.
Through a series of cautions, Bowman continued to keep his eyes out front and maintain position. On Lap 270, the driver was caught up in a wreck that happened in front of the Axalta Camaro ZL1. Bowman reported that his tires were flat spotted, and Ives called the driver to pit road. The team began crash repair by changing four tires and adding fuel, then going to work to fix the nose of the car. Bowman had to visit pit road one additional time for crash repair.
Shortly after the field went green, Bowman reported high temperatures in his Axalta Chevy. Shortly after reporting that, spotter Kevin Hamlin radioed in that the No. 88 machine was smoking heavily. On Lap 287, the Axalta machine’s engine blew due to the nose damage following the earlier wreck. Bowman was checked and released from the infield care center and relegated to a 30th-place finish.
Quoting Alex Bowman:
“We had an uncontrolled tire early. I don’t know. I guess the computer told them it was an uncontrolled tire. It didn’t look uncontrolled, but the computer is probably smarter than me. We kind of got off pit strategy trying to come back from that. We were going to be able to overcome it and have a decent day. It was just kind of odd. Some odd things going on and then they crashed in front of us and knocked the duct work out of it. Hendrick Motorsports builds great engines. This wasn’t an engine failure because of them. This was an engine failure because it had no duct work and it ran 350 degrees for 20 laps. It can only do that for so long. Definitely not where we wanted to end the day, but we will move on and look toward Homestead.”