Alex Bowman’s Short Track Experience Aids Top-Five Bristol Run

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

BRISTOL, Tenn – In a race that harkened back to the 1980s and 1990s era of NASCAR Cup Series racing, drivers had to fall back on their skills and technique to manage their Goodyear Racing Eagles. One driver that dipped back into their short track racing experience to score a top-five finish was Alex Bowman.

Ahead of the Food City 500 race weekend, officials at Bristol Motor Speedway put resin onto the concrete racing surface as opposed to the PJ1 used previously. The resin didn’t react as expected and as a result, the track did not take rubber, preventing drivers form being able to run hard all day long.

“Obviously, we want this place to rubber up and have two lanes, be able to run hard all day,” Bowman said. “That just wasn’t the circumstances we were given. I think the resin versus PJ1 probably had something to do with that because I don’t think the tire changed.”

The extreme tire wear left a wide margin between the ‘haves and the have nots.’ In scenes reminiscent of NASCAR prior to the new millennia, though it might have been too extreme.

“In the Cup Series, we run hard every single lap all race these days. Kind of fun to go back to [saving tires]. Maybe too far back to [doing] that. But glad we ended up on the right end of it,” Bowman admitted.

Bowman, once he and crew chief Blake Harris recognized the extreme tire wear taking place bided their time. The No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 took its time climbing up the running order. With only 11 sets of tires available, Harris had to be strategic with his pit calls. That, combined with Bowman’s technique and a flawless green flag pit stop put the Hendrick Motorsports driver inside the top-five in the closing laps.

“With the situation we had, I feel like our Ally 48 team did a great job at maximizing everything, making the right calls, adjustments throughout the day, knowing how to manage tires,” Bowman said. “That was something I was really good at when I first went stockcar racing. In ARCA you don’t have a lot of sets of tires. That was something I excelled at, and I feel like I was able to apply that today.”

Bowman was among the best of those managing their tires throughout the race. He credited that ability to maintain his tires, and the fourth-place finish that came with it to the short track racing he competed in as he climbed up the racing ladder.

“Just had to be smart about it and we had a really good racecar that was able to take care of the right-side tires and maintain track position,” Bowman continued. “Glad to end up where we did. Some of the short track racing I did growing up (and the experience I learned from it) was really important to save tires. I tried to do more of the same with that and I’m glad it paid off.”

The top-five run wasn’t without an early hiccup. Bowman qualified 29th as the drivers caught a glimpse of the difference the resin made to the grip of the track as opposed to the PJ1 traction compound. Harris’ strategy and Bowman’s technique put their Hendrick Chevrolet inside the top-10 in the final stage of the 500-lap race.

The Tucson, AZ native hopes to carry that momentum from his second top-five of the 2024 season into one of his favorite road courses, Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Bowman had a chance to win at the Austin, TX road course in 2022 and finished third last year.

“Yesterday Blake (Harris) and I were pretty mad to go qualify 29th and qualifying after the break never helps, but certainly we haven’t been qualifying how we need to,” Bowman explained. “Just to come out of here with a good finish and positive momentum is good. We need to continue to execute next week is one of my best racetracks. I am so excited to get back there, (we) just got to go from there.” 

The top-five finish moved Bowman up from 13th to 12th in the points standings. He is 53-points behind leader, and teammate, Kyle Larson. Bowman is also 10-points ahead of the playoff cutline, currently held by Kyle Busch.

The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at COTA is scheduled for Sunday, March 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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