By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
The NASCAR Playoff opener at Darlington Raceway saw Alex Bowman score a top-10 finish despite issues on pit road.
The final stage of the Cook Out Southern 500 started off well for Bowman. The driver of the No. 88 ChevyGoods.com / Truck Hero Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE lined up inside the top-five. The Hendrick Motorsports driver ran at the back of the top-five until a round of green flag pit stops.
A slow stop for Bowman dropped him out of the top-five. Once the green flag pit cycle completed, the driver that was honoring his teammate, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, found himself running eighth. Shortly thereafter, a caution for debris waved on lap 322.
On the ensuing restart, Bowman was stuck in the back-half of the top-10. It appeared that he would finish eighth when race leaders Martin Truex Jr., and Chase Elliott collided and slammed the wall. While the caution didn’t wave, Bowman passed both wounded cars to take the checkered flag in sixth.
“Sixth place isn’t terrible, but man we had a fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE tonight in Darlington,” admitted Bowman. “We had some issues on pit road that hurt us and we had to recover from that. I really feel like we were a car capable of winning. We just got buried there, but thankfully recovered from it.
“Sixth place isn’t the end of the world, but you know you had a fast car when you are bummed about sixth. This car looked amazing tonight and hopefully we can go to Richmond next weekend and do the same thing. It is a good feeling to have a good start to the Playoffs.”
Bowman has speed throughout the 500-mile race. After the metric qualifying formula lined the 27-year-old up fourth on the starting grid, he contended throughout much of the race.
The Tucson, AZ native finished the first Stage in sixth. Despite picking up a ‘Darlington Stripe’ in the second Stage, Bowman improved to end up fourth. In the first race of the NASCAR Playoffs, he picked up an additional 10-points.
The sixth-place finish is the ninth top-10 finish this season for Bowman. It is also the 35th top-10 finish of his Cup Series career and the 51st top-10 across NASCAR’s three National Series.
The top-10 finish moved Bowman up from eighth to fifth on the Playoff Grid. He is 54-points behind leader, and race winner, Kevin Harvick. Bowman is 19-points ahead of the cutoff for the Round of 12, held by Clint Bowyer.
Photo by NKP / NKP Photo