Having survived what could be considered the wild card race of Daytona with his spot on the playoff grid intact, Alex Bowman doesn’t expect to feel pressure again until the end of the regular season.
“Really, last week was probably the most pressure that I’ll see until we get to Indy, if things keep going the way they have,” Bowman said. “Definitely in the back of my mind I was looking at the No. 95 car [Kasey Kahne] leading laps and some of the other guys up there, I was like, ‘Oh this could get really bad for us.’ Glad it didn’t turn into too bad of a night for us — still got solid stage points and all that.”
Kahne had a shot to win last Saturday night going into the overtime restart and briefly nosed ahead in the lead with two laps to go. Fortunately for Bowman, Kahne was overtaken by Truex, Jones, and others before the checkered flag to finish fourth. Had Kahne won the race, he would have jumped up into the playoff grid, knocking Bowman out.
Instead, Bowman and his No. 88 continue to hold down the final playoff spot with eight races left in the regular season. With a 10th-place finish last weekend, Bowman could breathe easier because winner Erik Jones was also already on the playoff grid, meaning his victory did little to move the playoff needle.
The first driver outside looking in at Bowman is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. With Stenhouse finishing 17th, the advantage Bowman has going into the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) only shrank by four points.
“We have to keep putting races together and keep running solid top 10, and hopefully that gets us there,” Bowman said of the playoffs. “Obviously, we would like to win before the cutoff, but I think we can do it on points — we just have to keep moving in the right direction.
“We have kind of struggled to get stage points this year and that has really put us farther behind. But we’ll just keep working at it and I think we can make it.”
Bowman is working on a string of three consecutive top-10 finishes going into Saturday night, and while teams are always looking for wins, he says points shouldn’t be overlooked at this stage.
“We have obviously been off of where we want to be, and sometimes you don’t have that opportunity [to win] — you’ve just got to be smart and not put yourself in a really bad position early in a race and stuff like that,” said Bowman. “Always when you go to the racetrack, you are thinking win first, but points are pretty important right now too.”