Alex Bowman was encouraged by the Hendrick Motorsports stable’s performance and speed last weekend during the longest race of the season. But a ninth-place run was still described as “frustrating.”
The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was Bowman’s fourth top-10 finish in 13 races. Ahead of him, Jimmie Johnson finished fifth, and Chase Elliott crossed the finish line 11th. The fourth Hendrick car, William Byron, failed to finish following an accident.
“We’ve had some ups and downs,” Bowman said of the No. 88 team. “We have been quite a bit off how we expect and want to be running. Last week was a hard-fought ninth-place finish but missed out on a lot of stage points. It’s better than a bad finish, but still a little frustrating. We’re working really hard. We have a lot of really smart people trying to get all four of our cars better.
“But it’s no secret we are off where we want to be. It’s been a little frustrating, but we are not terrible in the points right now. It’s a dream come true just to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports. I really can’t complain too much.”
The good news is that Bowman believes he, crew chief Greg Ives and the team are only going to get better. Any pressure he feels doesn’t come from taking the car from Dale Earnhardt Jr., but in driving for Hendrick Motorsports. The company expects to contend for wins and championships, and Bowman knows that’s what he was hired to do and is eager to make happen.
When Bowman climbed into the car for the first time back in late 2016 to substitute for Earnhardt, he picked up three top 10s in 10 starts with 200 laps led. This year, he’s led 65 laps, which is the most of any of the four Hendrick drivers. He is the second-highest HMS driver in the championship standings at 14th, with Johnson leading the way sitting 12th.
“I think the 88 has shown hints of brilliance. The 9 [Elliott] has had a couple of good races,” said Bowman. “The 48 [Johnson] has had some good races, so whenever one of us has a good race, there is at least those notes that we can take for the next time we go there. We don’t go to the Charlotte oval again this year, but we can apply that to the other intermediate tracks, look at what they thought their strong suits were and weak points and share all that information.
“Hendrick Motorsports does a really good job at sharing information and working together throughout different meetings, competition meetings and I feel like all four of us drivers talk quite a bit as far as what we are feeling in our race cars. So, I think it’s just more notes for the notebook on what worked and what didn’t work and what worked well for them, what worked better for them than the other three cars. It’s definitely good.”
When it comes to Pocono Raceway, Sunday will be the first time Bowman has competed at the track in a Cup car since 2015. He was second fastest in Friday’s opening practice session.