Alex Bowman and the No. 88 Valvoline team rolled off fifth for the 501-mile event at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The first caution flag of the day was shown on Lap 8 and Bowman was scored in the 13th position. Crew chief Greg Ives told the driver to save fuel under yellow as the Valvoline team would remain on track. Bowman restarted 12th when the field took the green on Lap 12. Just two laps later, the caution flag was shown for debris on the track. Knowing that the team wasn’t in their fuel window, Ives radioed to the driver that the team would remain on track. After a few competitors elected to pit, Bowman was set to restart eighth on Lap 19.
The Tucson, Arizona, native entered the top 10 once again on Lap 27. On Lap 32, Bowman radioed to the Valvoline team that his car was tight off of Turns 1 and 2 in traffic. The yellow flag was shown on Lap 43 and Bowman was scored in the 11th position and reported that his car was a little edgy free. Ives called the Valvoline driver to pit road for right-side tires, fuel and an adjustment to help the car’s handling. Bowman was set to restart 20th on Lap 46. Just seven laps later, the caution was shown, and Bowman reported that he was struggling in Turns 1 and 2 in the 16th position.
Ives called the team to pit road for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment under the caution and the Valvoline machine was set to restart 26th on Lap 62. Through a series of two more cautions, Bowman crossed the line fourth at the conclusion of Stage 1. The 26-year-old driver reported that his car was pretty good and Ives elected to keep the driver out on track. This strategy call set Bowman up to lead the field to green for the start of Stage 2. Bowman elected to take the top lane on the restart and maintained the lead for 11 laps before his teammate Jimmie Johnson took over the top spot on Lap 100.
On Lap 108, Bowman was scored in the fifth position and was quiet on the radio. Almost 20 laps later, Bowman radioed to the Valvoline team that his car was tight late off of Turn 2. The Valvoline team made a scheduled green flag stop on Lap 132 for right-side tires and fuel. As green flag stops cycled through Bowman was scored in 10th on Lap 155. The driver was able to gain three positions before the end of Stage 2 where he finished seventh. Following the stage, Bowman brought his Chevrolet to pit road for four tires, fuel and another track-bar adjustment to help the car’s handling as the sun went down.
Bowman restarted 12th when the field took the green flag on Lap 177. The ninth caution of the night was shown on Lap 185 for an incident into Turn 2. Ives radioed to the Valvoline driver to save fuel and the team remained on track under yellow. The green flag waved on Lap 190 and Bowman was scored in the ninth position. Just as the field took the green, the caution flag was shown. Once again, the Valvoline team remained on track and restarted 10th on Lap 196.
The Valvoline driver radioed to the team on Lap 224 that his car was a little free entry to center. The caution flag was shown on Lap 241 and Bowman was scored in the fourth position. Ives called the driver to pit road under the yellow for four tires and fuel. On Lap 247, the field took the green flag and Bowman restarted seventh. Bowman was once again on the move inside the top 10 and running fifth by Lap 318.
Bowman was able to maintain his position through the end of the 334-lap event to bring home a fifth-place finish. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver at the conclusion of the day. The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bowman’s home track of ISM Raceway next weekend.
Bowman: “We started really tight and we made good adjustments throughout the day. Obviously, once the sun went down, the car got a lot better and we were pretty solid. I wish we could have had a little more track position and our strategy go our way a little more there at the end. But we definitely had a really good car today. It was just really tough to pass, but the guys did a good job. We came through the field a couple of times and had a good day.”
Rolling off 18th in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at Texas Motor Speedway, William Byron raced his way to the front of the field and was in position to collect another top five-finish until an untimely late race caution threw a wrench in pit strategy Sunday night. Forced to try fight for a lap back and to regain track position, Byron ultimately was relinquished to a 17th-place finish.
When the green flag waved Sunday afternoon, Byron quickly began making his way through the field from his 18th starting position. With two cautions within the first 20 laps and varying pit strategy playing out early on, Byron was able to pilot the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 inside the top 10 before the third caution of the race on Lap 44. Utilizing pit strategy as well, crew chief Chad Knaus called the sophomore Cup Series driver down pit road for a fuel-only stop with minor adjustments. Lining up 12th for the restart, Byron continued his march to the front, finding himself within the top five despite three back-to-back cautions. Hitting pit road under the yellow with less than 10 laps to go in Stage 1 Byron received four tires and fuel. Restarting deep in traffic from the 21st position, another quick caution just two laps later allowed Byron to come back down pit road after reporting that it felt like a right-side tire may be low. Mired back in 26th for a one-lap dash to end the stage, Byron ultimately crossed the finish line in the 18th position.
Since he was on pit road right before the stage end, Byron remained on track under the stage break, restarting ninth when some of the leaders elected to pit. With an ensuing long green flag run, Byron methodically worked his way into the top five just past the halfway point of Stage 2 before taking over the lead on Lap 149. Three laps later, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 came to pit road under green for four tires and fuel before rejoining the field. As green-flag pit stops cycled through, Byron settled into the tenth position as the stage came to an end.
Continuing to stick to the planned pit strategy, Byron did not pit under the stage break and took over the lead for the start of the final stage. Electing to take the outside lane when the green flag was displayed, Byron battled hard for the lead but got edged out at the line as the caution flag was displayed. Lining up again on the front row when the field went back to green, but this time on the bottom, Byron tried to regain the lead but his momentum was slowed dropping him back to third. As the run continued, Byron reported that his Axalta Chevy was a bit tight in Turns 1 and 2. Knaus called the No. 24 down pit road under green on Lap 224 for a scheduled pit stop for left-side tires and fuel. By coming to pit road as soon as the pit window opened, Byron rejoined the field in 23rd one lap down. However, an untimely caution on Lap 243 forced Knaus and the No. 24 team to redo their strategy. Still scored one lap down due to the field not fully cycling through green-flag pit stops, Byron elected not to pit and take the wave around instead to rejoin the lead lap cars. Scored 20th, Byron restarted at the tail of the field with under 90 laps remaining. Picking up two positions early once the field went back racing, Byron quickly reported that his Axalta Chevy was now extremely tight being back in “dirty air.” With the entire field still needing to pit one final time, Knaus made the call for the No. 24 to come down pit road under green on Lap 290 for two right-side tires and fuel to hopefully allow Byron to make up further track position. Scored 21st two laps down after the pit stop, Byron worked his way through traffic to make up one lap, and to then pick up positions as the rest of the field began their pit stops. Ultimately Byron worked his way up to 16th the first car one lap down with 20 laps remaining should the caution come out. Continuing to fight for positions, a car with fresher tires was able to get around Byron in the closing laps before he ultimately took the checkered flag in the 17th position.
Unfortunately, both Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson suffered damage in two unrelated on-track incidents leaving them with 32nd and 34th-place finishes respectively.