By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Four
Career Wins: Zero Cup wins, One Xfinity Series win
Extending the Hendrick Motorsports Daytona 500 pole streak to four years, Alex Bowman got his 2018 season off to a hot start by laying down the fastest lap in qualifying, eventually leading 13 laps in the race before finishing 17th.
In his first full-time season behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet, Bowman made the most of last season, scoring three top-five finishes (the first of his career) and 11 top-10 finishes, which equaled or surpassed career best marks at 18 different tracks along the way.
Those tracks included Atlanta, Auto Club Speedway, Bristol, Charlotte, the Charlotte “ROVAL” road course, Chicagoland, Darlington, Daytona, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Martinsville, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pocono, Richmond, Sonoma, Talladega, and Watkins Glen.
Bowman would make the Playoffs in his first season with HMS and advanced into the Round of 12 before elimination came calling at Kansas Speedway. He would eventually finish the season 16th in points.
“2018 had its fair share of ups and downs,” Bowman said. “Starting off the year winning the pole for the Daytona 500 was really special. Coming off the couch and making the playoffs was really cool. We wanted a lot more and expected a lot more throughout the year. We fell short of our expectations a little bit and hopefully we’ll be better in 2019.”
With Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives having a full year under their belts with the Camaro ZL1, look for more of the same results for the No. 88 team this coming season as they turn their focus toward improving on where they may have fallen short last season.
Ives noted their biggest opponent in 2019 will be themselves and limiting the mistakes that could hold them back.
“A lot of times we didn’t finish in a position not because of what other teams did it is because of what we did,” Ives said. “So, ultimately it comes back to us being our own opponent in a way.
“Reducing the number of mistakes maybe on pit road, reducing the number of mistakes on restarts, on the race track, qualifying, all those things and that starts with Alex and I setting that example of trying to continue to work on those details. Ultimately, I think ourselves is the biggest opponent and the rest of them are the usual contenders that you look to try to overcome and beat. “
If the gains Hendrick Motorsports made as a whole in 2018 were any indication, Bowman should be able to contend for a playoff spot again this year as long as they can wrap their hands around the new aero package that makes its debut.