Alex Bowman lost the lead in his Can-Am Duel race before his Camaro even came up to speed.
It was by design, though.
The pole-sitter for Sunday’s Daytona 500 was not about to leave anything to chance in his Can-Am Duel race. After leading the field to the green flag, Bowman promptly pulled over in Turn 1 and let the field go. Not only did never factor in the race, but at times Bowman was pacing well behind the field.
“I think we showed our hand we were pretty trimmed out. We came down here to sit on the pole, and we wanted to be the Camaro ZL1’s first pole, and we achieved that,” Bowman said post-race. “But we weren’t going to tear it up tonight, for sure.”
With four cautions occurring during the 60-lap Duel 1, Bowman naturally expressed thankfulness of having his car in one piece. And while his 14th-place finish can be tossed aside as meaningless in the grand scheme of things, Bowman did say his Nationwide Insurance team used the race to go through the motions of pit stops, even doing more than necessary.
“I think we’ll be really good on Sunday,” Bowman said, looking ahead.
Having accomplished their mission in the qualifying race, Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives now shift their focus to the Daytona 500 and starting on the front row. The car drives OK, Bowman said, but he still doesn’t have much experience in the draft since he did not compete in last weekend’s Clash race. How the No. 88 team will approach the rest of the weekend is still to be determined.
“Final practice here is always pretty interesting, so we’ll just kind of have to wait and see,” Bowman said. “We haven’t drafted at all. I haven’t drafted, really, since the test here in April. It’ll be interesting, but our race car still drove OK so I’m pretty confident going into Sunday.”
Reaction to how Bowman and company chose to spend the night varied. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alan Gustafson guided Chase Elliott to a win in the second Duel race and said he understood the decision. Granted, he might not have experienced much of how his car handled, but Gustafson said that’s what leaning on teammates is for.
Kevin Harvick, on the other hand, didn’t shy away from stating Bowman wasted his time learning nothing. Bowman is happily going forward, though.
“You always want to race but in a race that literally means – it’s 10 points is all it means, and there are huge consequences,” he said. “You got guys running by [me on pit road] saying I’m the smart one, so I’ll take it.”