Late-Race Incident Spoils Top-10 Run for Bowman at Phoenix
Alex Bowman and the Port of Tucson team were in contention for a top-10 finish in Saturday's Great Clips 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, but late-race contact with the outside retaining wall resulted in heavy damage to the No. 99 Toyota Camry, leaving Bowman with a 15th-place finish.
Bowman recorded the seventh and 10th-fastest times, respectively, in Friday's dual Nationwide Series practice sessions. Saturday morning, the 19-year-old driver ran a lap of 27.775 seconds, at an average speed of 129.613 mph, to earn the 22nd starting position for the feature later that afternoon.
Bowman was able to advance his Port of Tucson Toyota Camry in the opening laps, despite suffering from handling woes that saw him struggle both on corner entry and exit. When the caution flag was displayed at Lap 33, the Tucson native followed the leaders to pit road to take on right side tires and a spring rubber in the right rear, but problems inserting the spring saw the stop take longer than usual. As a result, crew chief Scott Zipadelli called an audible, instructing the crew to change all four tires, since Bowman would line up at the tail end of the lead lap cars.
Throughout the course of the event, Bowman would gain and lose track position on pit cycles, as the team was off sequence from the race leaders. Taking two tires when the rest of the field would take four saw the No. 99 as high as the sixth position, but taking four when the leaders took just two would see him fall back in the pack. Regardless of the situation, Bowman was able to get the most out of his Toyota Camry, as his times often mirrored those of the race leaders. With Phoenix International Raceway's single-file style of racing, Bowman would have to time his passes carefully, as the non-existent second groove was extremely slick.
In the closing laps of the event, Bowman got out of the groove just enough to lose the nose of his Port of Tucson Camry, which resulted in contact with the outside retaining wall. Thankfully, a late-race caution flag would give the No. 99 crew a chance to come to pit road to take on four tires and make repairs to help the young driver recover to the best of his ability. With only a handful of laps remaining, Bowman was able to bring the Port of Tucson home in the 15th position.
"I had a really good Toyota Camry, but we got ourselves in a little bit of a hole during qualifying," said Bowman. "Then we fought back into the top five. We took four tires while many of the others took two and that got us buried back in the field for a while. I got into some dirty air late in the race that caused me to hit the wall, knocking the splitter down and got us real tight. To come home 15th after that battle it's still an okay day. I definitely learned from my mistakes and can't thank RAB Racing, Scott Zipadelli and my hometown sponsor Port of Tucson enough."
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