Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Axalta team qualified 14th for Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway. At the start of the 312-lap event, Bowman quickly reported that his car was tight in the center, but started off free in. With 50 laps to go in Stage 1, the driver was scored in the 17th position.
While navigating through lapped traffic on track, Bowman lost positions as competitors were able to get around. On Lap 46, the Axalta machine was scored in the 19th position and when the caution flag was shown on Lap 65, Bowman relayed to the team that his car was tight. Crew chief Greg Ives elected to keep Bowman on track and take the wave around under this yellow. Bowman was set to restart 21st when the field went green on Lap 72 and just three laps later, at the conclusion of the stage, he would cross the line 22nd.
Ives called the 26-year-old driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments at the conclusion of the stage. The team was handed a speeding penalty following the stop, putting Bowman at the tail-end of the field for the restart in 27th. On Lap 100, Bowman was in the 24th position and was quiet on the radio. Just eight laps later, the Tucson, Arizona, native called over the radio that his car was loose into the corner following those adjustments. The Axalta driver would maintain his 24th-place running position at the conclusion of Stage 2.
After the second stage, Bowman reported that he wasn’t able to get the car to turn in the center and that he was experiencing some brake shake. Ives called the driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and another lengthy adjustment to help the car’s drivability. The field took the green flag on Lap 159 and Bowman rolled off 26th. The caution flag was shown on Lap 166. Once again, Ives made the call to keep Bowman on track to take the wave around under this yellow.
Bowman was set to restart 23rd on Lap 172 and just 20 laps later, the driver relayed that his machine was cycling tight again. With less than 100 laps to go in the event, Bowman was scored in 23rd. Ives called the driver to pit road for a scheduled green-flag stop on Lap 246 for four tires and fuel. Once green flag stops cycled through, Bowman remained in the 23rd position.
The final caution flag of the day was shown around Lap 300. Bowman radioed to Ives that his car had been firing off free in and off but would get tighter on the long run. Knowing that they would be able to take the wave around to get a lap back, Ives made the call to keep the Axalta Chevrolet on track while under caution. Bowman was set to restart 23rd and would maintain that position at the conclusion of the 312-mile event.
Alex Bowman: “This weekend just wasn’t our best. We just fired off too tight and had to make big adjustments on stops. The Axalta team hustled on stops and were getting the car better and then it would just go the other direction. These guys never give up and they kept hustling all day on pit road. Obviously not the way we wanted to run today, but we will move on and focus on Homestead.”
Qualifying 18th for Sunday afternoon’s race at ISM Raceway, William Byron was on pace for a top-10 finish when a loose wheel late in the race forced the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 down pit road under green for a second time. Fighting to make up lost ground, Byron was able to battle back from outside the top 20 to score a 17th-place finish in the closing laps.
Lining up 18th for the 312-lap event in the desert, Byron methodically began working his way through the field and made it to just outside the top 10, in the 12th position, before the first yellow of the race came out on Lap 68. Under the caution, crew chief Chad Knaus made the call for Byron to not pit, lining him up in the second position for the restart. With a three-lap dash to the end of Stage 1, fresher tires ultimately prevailed, but Byron was able to still secure stage points, crossing the line in eighth when the green-checkered flag was displayed. Fighting a Hertz Chevy that was a bit loose, Byron came to pit road under the stage break for four tires and fuel.
Restarting in the 18th position, Byron was able to use fresher tires to his advantage, making his way back through the field during Stage 2. As the sophomore driver reached 11th with 30 laps to go until the final stage break, Byron reported that the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 needed help turning in the center and exit of the corners. Slipping back to 12th as the run continued, Byron was able to maintain that position until the stage concluded on Lap 152. Under the caution, Byron came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a small chassis adjustment to help aid in the handling of his Chevy.
Picking up a couple positions on pit road, the 21-year-old restarted 10th, but the high lane stacked up and Byron was scored 13th when the caution came out seven laps later. Gaining a couple position under the yellow, Byron lined up 11th and was able to work himself inside the top 10 just a few laps later. As a long green-flag run ensued and the fuel window for the final pit stop of the race opened, Byron reported a slight vibration and came to pit road under green on Lap 241. During the pit stop Byron got four tires and fuel, but as the No. 24 Hertz Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 returned to the track Byron quickly reported that he felt like he had a loose wheel. Coming back down pit road under green, the Hertz team tightened the lug nuts on the left-side tires before Byron was able to rejoin the field. As green-flag pit stops cycled through Byron was scored 23rd, close to two laps down to the leaders. Trying to regain lost track position, Byron worked his way up to the 17th position but was scored two laps down when the caution came out on Lap 304. Electing to not pit and to take the wave around to get one lap back instead, Byron was scored 17th, only one lap down, when the field went back to green for the final three laps. Maintaining his position on the chaotic restart, Byron ultimately took the checkered flag in the 17th position at ISM Raceway.
Teammate Jimmie Johnson was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car coming home with a 14th-place finish. Byron was next in 17th, followed by Bowman in the 23rd position. Unfortunately, Chase Elliott was involved in an on-track incident relinquishing him to a 39th-place finish.