KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Alex Bowman wants to win at two racetracks more than any others on the current NASCAR Cup Series circuit. Surprisingly, one of them is Kansas Speedway.
But the summer of 2022 did not treat Bowman well. His No. 48 team lacked speed and results, a bad combination in big league auto racing.
In recent weeks, however, the No. 48 car has shown speed. In the regular season finale at Daytona, he paced the field for 11 laps and finished 14th. Three weeks prior, he picked up a ninth-place finish at Michigan, his first top-10 result since the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend.
Last weekend at Darlington, Bowman was a constant top-10 threat. He hovered in the back half of the top 10 for the majority evening, scoring four stage points in the second stage. That speed, he hoped, would transfer to Kansas.
Boy, did it.
Beginning on Saturday, Bowman kicked off the weekend strong. The No. 48 car ranked ninth on single-lap speed in practice and third on the 10-lap averages. Then, he qualified third, his best effort since starting on the front row for the Daytona 500.
It didn‘t take long for Bowman to reach the lead after the initial green flag flew. The No. 48 car got by Tyler Reddick on the opening lap and powered around Joey Logano to take the lead on lap 3. From there, he would lead the next 22 laps before the competition caution came out on lap 25.
With a couple of additional cautions in the opening stage, Bowman dropped to 17th, missing out on valuable stage points. Stage 2, though, was a different story.
Bowman maneuvered his way through the field and avoided four separate caution flags in the middle stage. And while many top running teams experienced problems on pit road, the No. 48 crew was stout, putting Bowman in position to capitalize on track position late.
Ultimately, Bowman rebounded to win Stage 2, just his second stage victory of the season with Las Vegas, where he won in March, being the other.
“Anywhere we go right now with the way the team is clicking,” Bowman said following the 400-mile race at Kansas. “We‘re capable of performing.”
When the race went green in the final stage, Bowman looked to be in control. He led 79 consecutive laps before Bubba Wallace got by on lap 200. From there, the Toyotas of Wallace, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. shined, all running inside the top five. In conjunction, the No. 48 car dropped to fourth, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson dropped to sixth and eighth, respectively, in the finishing order.
Hendrick Motorsports had the advantage on short runs, but Joe Gibbs Racing — and Wallace — controlled the final stage, which went caution free.
“The end of those long runs, I think we were best in class,” Bowman said. “We were definitely getting beat by a couple of guys at the end. Just couldn‘t hold the [No.] 45 off. We‘ve been caught a lap down like every race on a pit cycle, so we made sure that didn‘t happen and stayed out long. That hurt us a little bit, but it‘s better than going a lap down.
“Think we had a great racecar today, but definitely needed a little bit more on those last 15 laps of those two runs there at the end. Still had a really good day.”
Bowman led a race-high 107 laps en route to his first top-five finish since May 2 at Dover. Prior to Sunday, the No. 48 car led just 29 laps in the first 27 races of the season. It‘s only his fourth top-five result of the season and second top 10 in the previous 14 races. Fourth place isn‘t satisfying, though.
“Greg [Ives, crew chief] and I are in a really great place and super motivated,” Bowman stated. “It feels good, but you always want more.”
After two races in the opening round of the playoffs, Bowman sits comfortably in sixth on the playoff grid, 30 points above the cutline. That beats his position at this time last year, where he had to have a stellar run at Bristol to even advance into the Round of 12.
On a personal note, Bowman‘s father‘s family is from Kansas. This was keeping him motivated to chase the checkered flag, and why it‘s one of the two tracks he wants to win at.
“I‘ve had some success here in some different types of racecars in the past as well,” Bowman said. “It just means a lot coming here. It‘s a neat place, a special place for me and a fun place to race as well.”
In 11 starts at Bristol, Bowman has a trio of top-10 finishes.