After two strong practice sessions earlier in the day, Alex Bowman was left disappointed after qualifying eighth at Chicagoland.
“I don’t know why we slowed down like we did,” said Bowman. “We went a little over a tenth faster than that in practice, so I’m pretty bummed. I thought we would go faster when the racetrack cooled down, but … I don’t know. It is what it is.
“It was easily wide open, nothing too spectacular. We were good, just a little bit off.”
Bowman put his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the top of the leaderboard in the opening practice. Making a mock qualifying run late in the 50-minute session, he paced both Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. Bowman was also the best in the 10-consecutive-lap-average category.
In the final practice, Bowman was eighth, third in the best-10-consecutive-lap averages behind Harvick and teammate Jimmie Johnson.
The Camping World 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) will be the first race on a mile-and-a-half track since the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte last month. Bowman finished seventh in that race. The week before Charlotte was Kansas, another 1.5-miler, where Bowman come oh-so-close to winning his first race, winding up second to Brad Keselowski. It was the third straight week Bowman had been the runner-up.
“Track position is going to be important here, which is why I’m a little disappointed in where we qualified,” Bowman said. “I think we’ll have a couple of laps to get passing done on fresh tires, and then it’s going to be really hard to make it happen. My crew is probably the best on pit road, so that’s good.
“We had a really good race car. Clean air is key here — hopefully, we’ll get some of that.”
Sunday will be Bowman’s fifth start at Chicago and his third in the No. 88 for HMS. In 2016, he jumped behind the wheel for a concussed Dale Earnhardt Jr. and finished 10th. Last year, he was also 10th.