By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
SPARTA, Ky. – In an uncharacteristic fashion, Hendrick Motorsports has been struggling in 2018. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman, who makes his 100th career Cup start this weekend, has often been the best of the Hendrick contingent in recent weeks.
Bowman enters the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway set to make his 29th start with Greg Ives as his crew chief. In that time, Bowman has earned one top-five, 10 top-10s, and two pole positions, including this year’s Daytona 500. After alternating weeks earlier in the season of finishes up and down the running order, Bowman and Ives have put together a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes.
“Working with Greg is a ton of fun,” Bowman explained. “I’ve started to understand his riddles a little bit, which is really a pretty big achievement in my book, but no, it’s been great working with him. I think we have been pretty solid. We have finally seemed to put races all the way together the last three weeks, not have any big mistakes and finished where we deserved to finish. I feel like Daytona is kind of whatever, but other than that, Sonoma and Chicago we finished pretty well and that is how we deserved and how we ran.”
Bowman and his No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team have also struggled to start races strong this season. The Tucson, AZ native has earned just 27 Stage Points this season. This leaves Bowman tied with Ryan Newman and teammate William Byron for 19thamong drivers that have earned Stage Points. In comparison, Championship Points Leader Kyle Busch has earned a staggering 206 Stage Points.
“You know we have been making cars better throughout the course of a race too, which is kind of something we struggled to do to start the year. Making cars better throughout qualifying which is also something we struggled to do to start the year. If we can just continue to get better every week I think we can be a contender by the end of the year. It’s just been a long slow process to kind of catch up from where we started the year, but we are definitely getting there.”
Bowman has five starts at the Sparta, Ky track, the in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and two in NASCAR’s Premier Series. Although his best finish at the track is a fifth-place in the Xfinity Series, Bowman last competed at the track prior to its repaving and reconfiguration.