By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Six
Career Wins: One
After coming so close, so many times, 2019 was the year Alex Bowman finally got the monkey off his back and scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win, holding off Kyle Larson in a thriller at Chicagoland Speedway.
Along with the win, Bowman claimed seven top-five finishes, 12 top-10 finishes, 200 laps led and had an average finish of 14.4 over the 36-race season. For the second year in a row, he was able to make it to the Playoffs, advancing through to the Round of 12 before being eliminated at Kansas and finishing the season 12th in points.
“It was a year full of ups and downs,” Bowman said of his 2019 campaign. “We had some really good runs there. We either ran somewhere in the top-five or we had a bad day. We just weren’t very consistent. That’s really what we needed to work on all year and just weren’t able to find it.
“We wanted a lot more. We wanted to make it a lot further than that in the Playoffs, but stuff happens and it was obviously really good to get our first win together.”
Bowman and his team were stout on the 1.5-mile tracks last year, but had some weaknesses throughout the season, namely at short tracks and road courses. With that in mind, crew chief Greg Ives noted that the No. 88 bunch had zeroed in on those problem areas and would be working on them over the offseason to be able to come into the 2020 season ready to go.
“Phoenix is going to be a huge race next year, Martinsville, some of those tracks that were a struggle, so that’s where we are putting some of our focus,” said Ives. “We are trying to understand where we went wrong. Ultimately, we try to work on our weakest links.
“Now I know what we have to improve to not only be top 10 in points but to put ourselves in position with the new playoff schedule. You can have your favorite tracks in each round, now you kind of have to figure it out again and how that rhythm of each round is going to go. It’s going to be new for everybody, and hopefully, we can conquer that and get to the final four.”
Given the team’s success from the past two seasons of being Playoff contenders, there is no reason to think they won’t be back in the mix once again in 2020. The only question that remains is how far they will be able to make it into the postseason. Should they be able to smooth out the hiccups from 2019, a run into the Round of 8 isn’t out of the realm of possibility for this team.