By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
As the results for the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 continue to improve, Alex Bowman earned his best career finish at Pocono Raceway on Sunday. The Hendrick Motorsports driver found himself in the thick of the fight in the Gander Outdoors 400.
Over the course of the final restarts and one overtime, Bowman picked off position after position in his No. 88 Axalta All-Pro Teachers Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver battled with teammates Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Jimmie Johnson, as well as Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, and Kevin Harvick. Bowman picked up positions every restart, leap frogging his competitors, to take the checkered flag in third.
Bowman was up front throughout the entire 400-mile race, in part because of strategy, as well as the strength of his Chevrolet. As both stages ended, many teams short-pitted, moving Bowman up the running order. He finished both stages well inside the top-10, gaining Stage Points. Bowman’s Philadelphia Eagles-inspired paint scheme also gained several positions before the race even started, his car, one of just 27, that passed post-qualifying inspection.
“I felt like our car was really solid on restarts all day,” Bowman said. “Anytime you restart on the outside here you can kind of take advantage of some people into the Tunnel (Turn). We were able to do that. That last restart wasn’t the best I couldn’t get to Kyle’s (Busch) rear bumper. I think we had some gear ratio differences there, but still a good solid day. The spotter did a good job all day, engine shop, chassis shop, everybody back home really appreciative for the continual improvement because it’s been awhile since we’ve run this good.”
The third-place finish is Bowman’s second-career top-five finish and his best career finish to date. It is also just the ninth top-10 finish of the season for Hendrick Motorsports, the fewest at this point of the season (21 races in) for the team since 1992, when the team had just 10 top-10s by the 20th race.
“It’s great,” Bowman said for the organization. “We really struggled all weekend until today. Then the boss showed up, so maybe Mr. Hendrick just needs to come to every single race and we will all run better. It’s kind of some light at the end of the tunnel. We didn’t have the raw speed it looked like the No. 9 (Chase Elliott) did. We were a little off, but anytime all four of us are running better is a good week for us.”
Bowman remains 15th in the Championship Points Standings, 395-points behind Points Leader, and race winner, Kyle Busch. He currently holds the cutoff for the Playoffs. He is 56-points ahead of both Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Paul Menard who are tied for the first position outside of the Playoffs.