The NASCAR Cup Series was forced to race at Michigan International Speedway on Monday evening, following a rain out on Sunday. Alex Bowman and the Nationwide team rolled off 20th for the 400-mile event and quickly were making moves to advance positions. By Lap 11, Bowman was running in 15th and was quiet on the radio. The competition caution was shown on Lap 20 and the team was scored in the 13th spot. Bowman radioed to the Nationwide team that his car was pretty good, but that he was just having to work track position. Under the caution, crew chief Greg Ives radioed to Bowman to pit for fuel only. After about five seconds of fuel, Bowman was able to advance six positions coming off pit road to restart seventh.
On Lap 27, Bowman remained in the seventh position and was running in the top groove of the two-mile track. The Arizona native was able to drive up to the fourth position on Lap 45 and with under 10 laps to go in Stage 1, he got around the No. 20 for the third position. At the conclusion of the stage, Bowman was able to advance one spot to finish second, earning valuable stage points. Following the stage, the driver reported that his car was good, but a little free into the corner. Ives elected to bring the Nationwide machine to pit road for four tires and fuel. Bowman would start Stage 2 from the second position. After getting shuffled around on the start, by Lap 70 the driver was running sixth.
The caution was shown on Lap 71 for an incident in Turn 2 and Bowman brought his Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to pit road for fuel only. After some competitors remained on track, Bowman was set to restart eighth. Ives relayed to the driver that they could make it to the end of the stage on fuel, but the cars in front would need multiple cautions to make it. With 34 laps to go in the stage, Bowman was scored in sixth and remained quiet on the radio. Through some competitive track position changes, the No. 88 machine received left-rear damage that was causing the car to be extremely loose. Ives radioed to Bowman that the team was making a plan for a repair at the conclusion of the stage.
Bowman continued falling back in track position due to the loose conditions but was able to salvage a ninth-place finish at the conclusion of Stage 2. Under caution for the stage end, Ives called the Nationwide driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and left rear damage repair. The team elected to make one additional stop under the yellow to ensure that the damage was fixed. Bowman restarted 30th when the field went back green on Lap 127. Two laps later, the caution was shown, and the 26-year-old driver reported that his car was definitely better and was scored in the 23rd position. Ives chose to keep the team on track and Bowman restarted 22nd.
Under caution once again on Lap 135, Ives kept the team out on track and Bowman was set to restart 14th on Lap 141. Just two laps later, Bowman had advanced seven positions and was settled into the seventh position. On Lap 151, the driver radioed to the team that his car was tighter than he wanted it to be. With 30 laps to go in the event, Bowman was scored in the ninth position. The final pit stop of the day for the team came on Lap 176 and Ives elected to take fuel and make a track-bar adjustment on the No. 88 machine. After green flag pit stops cycled through, Bowman was scored in the fifth position.
The 200-lap event went into overtime following a late race incident and Bowman was set to restart fifth on the first attempt at overtime. Bowman got shuffled around but maintained his position in the top-10 and crossed the line 10th at the end of the event. This is Bowman’s fifth top-10 finish in the last six races. The No. 88 team moves to 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, just 181 markers behind the leader.
Alex Bowman: “I feel like it raced better than we expected after practice. Obviously, it being cool and overcast was really the best-case scenario for the package. Hopefully it worked out to be a good race, it looked like a good race from where I was at. It was really hard to pass without help, but we were still able to come through the field more than you were in practice, so that was good. I wish we would have ended up a little better, but we’ll take it and move on.”
William Byron rolled off 21st for the race, and after some adjusting to the aero package as well as pit strategy, Byron was running 14th and was poised to finish in the top 15 before a late race restart relinquished him to an 18th-place finish.
Qualifying 21st, Byron spent the initial run of the race getting a feel for the handling of his No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Making it up to the 19th position by the time of the competition caution on Lap 20, crew chief Chad Knaus called the sophomore driver down pit road to top off on fuel. Returning to the track in 15th, Byron got pinned in the inside lane for the ensuing restart, falling back as far as the 23rd position. However, as the run continued, Byron began to adapt to the aero package and methodically made his way back to the top 15, finishing Stage 1 in 15th place. Coming to pit road under the stage break, the Hendrick Autoguard team completed a four-tire stop with fuel with minor adjustments to aid Byron chattering in the front end of the car at the beginning of a run.
Restarting 14th for the start of Stage 2, Byron found himself within the top 10 when the caution was displayed again just four laps later. Knaus made the decision for Byron to pit under the caution for fuel only, lining the No. 24 up in the 11th position for the upcoming restart. Losing momentum as the field went back green, Byron lost a handful of positions early but regained his composure and worked his way back inside the top 15 as green-flag pit stops began. As the laps in Stage 2 dwindled and a few competitors pit for fuel to make it to the end of the stage, Byron crossed the stripe in the eighth position to pick up stage points in Stage 2. Under the yellow, Byron radioed to his team that he had been fighting a tight Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and came to pit road for four tires and fuel, losing a couple positions on track for the strategy call.
Despite lining up 12th for the start of the final stage, Byron made a couple critical moves on the opening lap, finding himself up to fifth as the caution came out on Lap 131. Maintaining that position for the restart, Byron ultimately lost track position as the field went back green due to restarting in the bottom lane. However, while battling to regain some of the lost positions, the No. 24 swung loose underneath the No. 3 but Byron was able to continue as the caution came out. Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and to look over the nose of the car, Byron returned to the track in 27th with 59 laps remaining. Trying to make up as much track position as possible, Byron worked his way up to the 18th position with just under 30 laps left as the leaders began to make their final green-flag pit stops. As pit stops continued, Byron cycled to the lead before coming to pit road under green on Lap 184. Knaus made the call for fuel-only for the No. 24 Hendrick Autoguard Chevrolet allowing Byron to rejoin the field within the top-15 running order. Battling for the 13th position with four laps remaining, the caution came out setting the field up for overtime. Forced to restart in the bottom lane from 13th, Byron was shuffled back in the pack in the final laps, ultimately crossing the finish line with an 18th-place finish at Michigan.
Bowman led the Hendrick Motorsports quartet to the checkered flag Monday night, followed by Jimmie Johnson in 15th and Chase Elliott in 20th.