Alex Bowman came into the postseason feeling like his Hendrick Motorsports team was “in a really good place” and talking about racing against his teammates for a championship.
But things have gone far from planned through the first five playoff races. Bowman crashed at Talladega Superspeedway in the postponed Monday event, and is now the last driver on the playoff grid going into the final race of the second round. He was leading the outside lane when tagged from behind by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was hit by Chase Elliott in a drafting accordion effect.
“Yeah, as soon as (Stenhouse) pushed us, it dumped on the left rear and spun out,” said Bowman, who finished 38th in the rain-shortened race. “That’s just part of superspeedway racing, part of coming to Daytona and Talladega. Nowhere to hide, and another torn up race car.”
The lap 97 crash for Bowman also collected Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Ryan Preece, and Ross Chastain. According to NASCAR, nine cars were involved in the incident.
Officials declared the race complete before the end of the second stage on lap 116. Bowman did earn points in the first stage, which was the No. 88 team’s goal. He had a fast car and was in contention to potentially earn more points when the crash occurred.
“I think leading is where we want to be,” Bowman said. “We’ve been crashed leading into Turn 3 a couple of times now, so bummed out about that. But what are you going to do?
“I think the whole race has been pretty intense, but we weren’t doing anything crazy. We weren’t switching lanes and throwing big blocks, it was just a push that went wrong.”
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Bowman is last on the playoff grid by 52 points going into the final race of the Round of 12. It is a must-win in Bowman’s mind.
“We’ve run well there before, so I feel like we can be really strong,” Bowman said. “Just have to go and do it. That’s our only chance to advance, so definitely looking for that.”
After winning three races in the regular season, Bowman has had little go right in the postseason. He opened the playoffs hitting the wall early at Darlington, putting in a long night with a damaged car. Then, he wasn’t much of a factor at Richmond. After scoring his first top-10 finish of the postseason, a fifth at Bristol, bad pit strategy bit the team at Las Vegas.
Bowman’s average finish in the playoffs is 20.6. Does it feel like the playoffs from hell?
“Pretty much,” Bowman said. “That’s a good way to sum it up.”