By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – A late-race pit call by crew chief Greg Ives followed by a strong drive from Alex Bowman kept the Hendrick Motorsports driver in the Playoffs. In the chaotic run to the finish to the Bank of America ROVAL 400, Bowman bounced in and out of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff bubble until the checkered flag.
After avoiding a multi-car pile-up on lap 103, Bowman found himself in fifth. On the restart, his No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was boxed in on the 2.28-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. As Bowman battled fellow Playoff drivers Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch, the two race leading drivers, Martin Truex, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson made contact.
The lead duo spun, creating a scramble behind. As Bowman emerged through the smoke, he found himself in fourth. After dodging the two formerly leading drivers, he took the checkered flag, and advanced to the Round of 12.
“It makes up for the fact that we should have probably won there,” Bowman said. “We got boxed in that last restart. We had 20-lap fresher tires than the guys in front of us. Things fell our way there at the end to get us up front. I just couldn’t make it happen. Congrats to the 12, we were on the same strategy as them and were in front of them, so it is what it is. Glad to make it in.
“A lot of people said that we were going to be one of the guys out, and to make it in, with the way some of those guys drove, it definitely makes me feel good. Wish we would have ended up three spots better there, but it’s part of racing.”
Prior to the final restart, Bowman found himself six points behind Bowyer and seven behind eventual winner Ryan Blaney. Ives elected to cut the final 40-laps in half, bringing Bowman to pit road with 20 to go. With fresh tires, Bowman steamrolled his way through the field, climbing from 23rd to 14th before a caution on lap 102.
“This was a tough round,” Bowman explained. “Dover we were good at in the spring, just got off on strategy, Talladega is Talladega, and Kansas is one of my favorite places, so we should be good.”
After the reseeding for the Round or 12, Bowman now sits 12th on the Playoff Grid, 55-Points behind Championship Points Leader Kyle Busch. He is also 13-Points behind the cutoff held by Blaney.
The fourth-place finish was just the third top-five for Bowman this season. It was also his first career top-five finish on a road course.