A 15th-place finish last weekend at Pocono cooled the hot streak Alex Bowman had been on, but he is still positioned nicely for a spot in the postseason.
Bowman felt he had a top-five run going at Pocono before getting “in a fight with fourth gear.” The finish placed Bowman and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team out of the top 10 for the first time in four weeks — a stretch that includes an impressive run of three consecutive second-place finishes at Talladega, Dover, and Kansas.
“We definitely have, I feel like, turned things around,” Bowman said Friday morning in Michigan. “I think we’ve just had such strong race cars and it’s made my job a heck of a lot easier.”
Reckoning that the FireKeepers Casino 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, FS1) will play out like Kansas did with this year’s aero package, Bowman is hopeful for another strong performance. In Kansas, he led 63 laps and was passed for the win by Brad Keselowski with seven laps remaining of the race’s scheduled distance.
Most importantly, since the April 28 race at Talladega, Bowman has catapulted himself up the overall point standings to put himself in position to earn a playoff spot for the second straight year. Before Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives announced their presence as contenders, they sat 21st in standings. Now with 12 weeks remaining in the regular season, Bowman is 11th and has a 53-point gap on Kyle Larson and HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson, who are tied for the 16th and final playoff spot.
“I don’t think you ever feel good about it unless you’re winning, but we’re not bad,” Bowman said of his position. “We don’t have a huge buffer, but we’ve got a little bit of a buffer there. We’ve just got to find victory lane, that’s really all I’m worried about.
“I’m not too concerned about the points. I think if we run well they take care of themselves and that’s what I’m focused on doing.”
In seven career starts at Michigan, Bowman has yet to lead a lap and has an average finish of 29th.