Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Nationwide team rolled off 13th for Sunday’s 600-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Bowman’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 carried the name of fallen soldier, Jon “JT” Tumilson, a Navy Seal who was killed in action in 2011.
By Lap 12, Bowman was reporting that his car was tight center off while running in the 11th position. The caution flag was shown on Lap 23 and crew chief Greg Ives elected to have the driver pit for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment. Bowman was set to restart 12th when the field went back green. The 26-year-old driver was scored inside the top-10 by Lap 30 and 10 laps later, was reporting that his car was tight. On Lap 49, the caution flag was shown, and the No. 88 team elected to pit for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments to help the car’s handling.
Under caution at Lap 73, Ives radioed to Bowman to remain on track and the team restarted second. Just 12 laps later, the driver radioed to the Nationwide team that his car was extremely tight and had no front grip. Under the caution, Bowman visited pit road for four tires, fuel and additional adjustments. At the conclusion of Stage 1 the Nationwide machine was scored in the 14th position.
At the start of Stage 2, Bowman was running in the 16th position and on Lap 121 radioed to Ives to say that his Chevrolet was much better. When the caution was shown on Lap 126, the No. 88 machine was scored in the seventh position and came to pit road for four tires and fuel. Bowman restarted 12th on Lap 130 and by Lap 155 was running seventh. With 28 laps to go in Stage 2, the Arizona native was running third and reporting that his car was free in the center. Under the Lap 188 caution, Ives elected to not pit and stay on track. This strategy call put Bowman in the lead when the field went back green on Lap 193. When Stage 2 concluded, Bowman was scored in the second position. Ives called the driver to pit road for four tires and fuel under the stage-ending yellow and Bowman was set to restart 11th when the field went back green.
By Lap 242, the Nationwide machine was scored in the seventh position and was quiet on the radio. Under the Lap 250 caution, Bowman was scored in the 10th position and came down pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. The driver restarted sixth on Lap 256 and with 40 laps to go in Stage 3 was running fifth. On Lap 273, Bowman radioed to the team that he needed more front turn but that he couldn’t lose rear grip. At the conclusion of the stage, the Nationwide machine was scored in sixth and earned valuable stage points.
Following a pit stop at the conclusion of the stage, Bowman was set to restart seventh on Lap 307. Shortly after taking the green flag, the field got into a multi-car accident, but the No. 88 suffered no damage. Ives radioed to the driver to stay out on track and restart sixth. On Lap 327, Bowman radioed to the team that he made contact with the wall while running 10th but remained on track. The driver reported a small vibration on Lap 346 and on Lap 353 came to pit road with a right rear tire down. The Nationwide pit crew changed four tires and fuel under that stop and when the caution was shown on Lap 359, Ives radioed to Bowman to take the wave around.
Bowman restarted 18th on Lap 365 and four laps later he reported that his car was really loose. The 16th caution of the night was shown on Lap 390 for a spin on track and Bowman reported that his car needed tires. Ives called the Nationwide machine to pit road for four tires and fuel and Bowman was set to restart 14th with five laps to go. With three laps to go in the 400-lap event, Bowman was running 11th and in those final laps was able to gain four positions to finish the event seventh. This is the driver’s fifth top-10 finish in the last five events, including the NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tonight’s finish is Bowman’s best finish in the 600-mile event at CMS in seven starts.
Alex Bowman: “I fired off pretty poorly; it was just really tight to start. The guys did a really good job of getting our car better. We got up towards the front and then late there I decided to get up in the fence and tear the right side off of it. I’m really glad we were able to fix it, overcome a flat right rear, and still end up 7th. I just need to not make that mistake and we definitely had a top-five car. It was my fault that I drove it into the fence, so that makes me frustrated with myself. People make mistakes and that was just one that I made. I’ll just learn from it and move on. Stuff happens.
“I hate that we didn’t get Jon’s (Tumilson, fallen soldier) family to victory lane tonight. It was great meeting them and it was an honor to carry Jon’s name on our Nationwide machine tonight. The 600 is always a special race and I am glad we were able to recover.”
After collecting his second career NASCAR Cup Series pole during Thursday night’s qualifying session, William Byron kept his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 running in the top position for the initial 23 laps of the race until the first caution came out on Lap 24. Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and minor adjustments to the Liberty Chevy, a slight issue on the left side forced Byron to line up third for the restart. The sophomore driver maintained his third position until the caution came out on Lap 49. He pitted for four tires and restarted in third, before slipping back to fifth because of debris stuck on the nose of his Chevy causing his water temperature to spike. Byron return to pit road under caution on Lap 75 for another set of sticker tires, fuel and adjustments to help aid in a Chevy that’s back end felt like it was out of the track. With varying pit strategy occurring due to the end of the stage closing in, Byron lined up 12th for the restart and immediately gained five positions on the opening lap. With a quick yellow coming out and the field making a five-lap dash to the stage break, Byron collected stage points after finishing Stage 1 in the sixth position. While under caution, the decision to pit was made at the last minute but Byron was unable to make it to pit road without committing a pit road penalty, so the 24 team elected to keep him on track, lining him up in the fifth position for the restart.
Maintaining his top-five running position through the start of Stage 2, Byron began to slip back as the handling of the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 began to get progressively tighter throughout the run. Close to having to pit under green for fuel because of not pitting earlier, a caution on Lap 128 allowed Byron to come to pit road under yellow for four tires and fuel before returning to the track in eighth for the ensuing restart. Taking advantage of the restart, Byron propelled himself back into the top-five running order and remained there until the caution came out again on Lap 162. Needing front air on the nose of his Chevy, Byron came in for a routine four-tire stop and the Liberty University crew was able to gain him three positions on pit road, giving Byron the lead when the field went back green on Lap 166. As the run continued, Byron lost a couple positions as his Liberty University Chevy began to get tighter, ultimately finishing Stage 2 in the fifth position.
Stopping for four tires, fuel and adjustments under the Stage 2 break, Byron restarted ninth with some cars electing not to come to pit road. However, the No. 24 had not been this deep in traffic all race and the dirty air made the handling of the No. 24 even tighter. Holding on to his position within the top-15 throughout another long green-flag run and pit stop under caution, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line for Stage 3 in the 13th position. Under the caution, Byron reported that he needed help on the start of a run, but that the handling of his No. 24 came to him the longer the run went on. Hitting pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments, the Liberty University crew continued to gain Byron track position, putting him ninth for the start of the final 100-lap stage.
With a couple of near-miss incidents occurring in front of the No. 24, Byron found himself seventh with 76 laps remaining. However, after a chaotic restart, Byron got shuffled back to 15th where he ran until green flag pit stops began less than 20 laps later. The caution came out soon thereafter on Lap 361 allowing crew chief Chad Knaus to call the Charlotte native down pit road for four tires and fuel, lining him up 10th for the ensuing restart with 35 laps remaining. Making his way up to eighth, Byron had one more opportunity to come to pit road for fresh tires when the caution came out for the final time on Lap 392. Restarting 11th for a five-lap sprint to the finish, Byron ultimately fought his way to a track-best ninth-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his third top-10 finish of the 2019 season.
Chase Elliott led the Hendrick Motorsports four-car contingent to the stripe with a fourth-place finish, followed by Alex Bowman in seventh, Jimmie Johnson in eighth and Byron in ninth.
William Byron: “I expected the track to kind of come to us when nighttime came but it just didn’t really. We didn’t have the best restarts on the bottom, and we had a couple of restarts on the top at the end, and were able to finish ninth. So that was good. We’ll just keep working and figure out what we need to do next time.
“We were pretty good during the day. I had pretty good speed, top-five speed really. We were pretty tight-off but then it just kept escalating as the runs got longer. When nighttime fell we were just too tight. Ultimately it was a good solid two weeks in a row for us and a ninth-place finish is not bad. It seems like we’re getting better for sure. With all four of us (Hendrick Motorsports teammates) in the top 10, it’s pretty good and we’ll just work from there.”