Bowman Makes A Name
Alex Bowman, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr, was running in the top-five during the Bank of America 500, but blew a tire to end his chances for victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway to finish 39th.
This is Bowman’s fifth race driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. In his first race at Loudon in July, he was running strong, but had issues resulting in a 26th place finish. At Michigan, Bowman’s bad luck continued with a 30th place finish. At Chicagoland and Loudon in September, his luck was looking up with a 10th and 14th place finish.
However, that luck at Charlotte went south. On lap 63, Bowman blew a right front tire sending him into the turn four wall where he would collect Casey Mears.
“Yeah, we didn’t hit anything and it’s nobody’s fault. We just must have run something over. It’s unfortunate and I hate it for all the guys. Everyone at Hendrick Motorsports brought a great car to the race track. Again, it’s unfortunate and we are going to try and get back out there and salvage some spots,” said Bowman.
When asked about his run, Bowman was proud to have his name out there among the top drivers.
“They knew we were here that is all that matters. There is nothing more I can do, nothing more anybody on the race team can do. They all do a great job and did everything right, just bad luck.”
Despite having disappointing finishes, Bowman is still having fun. “The one thing that I said I was going to do throughout all these races was to make the most of it and to have the most fun I possibly could,”
Bowman was able to score his first top-10 finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Bowman is honored to have the opportunity to drive for Rick Hendrick, and is glad that they have given him a chance.
Bowman will finish out the year driving in the No. 88 Chevy, but will step aside at Martinsville to allow Jeff Gordon the chance to drive the car.
Johnson Claims Charlotte Victory
Jimmie Johnson scored the victory in the rain-delayed Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway to advance to the “Round of 8” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, his first time as championship contender. This is his third win of 2016.
“Really we just fell back on what we are made of at Hendrick Motorsports. There is a culture there and a belief. It was not fun to experience after all that we have been through but we have seen the cars get stronger, better and faster. We were able to execute all day long here. You were asking about that restart at the end and the track got so slick that I actually found that restarting on the bottom was a little bit better than what I had up top. I was able to throw it down to the inside of the 20 in turn three and make the pass, but restarts were really tricky today. I just really can’t thank everyone enough that supports us and for all the fans that were tuned in today,” said Johnson in a post-race interview about getting back into victory lane.
“Yeah, it was a great second. I think this is one of the toughest tracks there is on the circuit to pass at. It was better during the day than it is at night and that’s a good thing, because we had to go to the back twice, so we were able to make up some ground and finish okay,” said second place finisher, Matt Kenseth.
The first half of the race started with drivers trying to get to the bottom of the track in an effort to feel out their cars. Before the competition caution, many drivers were complaining about ill-handling vehicles. After the competition caution fell, Chase Elliott set sail as the race leader. As the field hit lap 62, Alex Bowman, who was running top-five, but was in an accident with Casey Mears. Kyle Busch had a vibration on the right front tire; he was running second at the time. As a long green flag run became the norm, drivers were becoming more concerned with tires. As green flag stops were underway, Joey Logano hit the wall in the second turn to bring out the caution. As Elliott got caught under the last caution, Denny Hamlin prevailed as the race leader, and set sail in clean air. Kevin Harvick fell off the pace due to losing power bringing out the caution while Logano hit the wall again as the caution flew. Hamlin held the lead at the halfway point with Johnson, Keselowski, Elliott, and Jamie McMurray rounding out the top-five.
As the second half of the race began, Johnson tried to take the lead from Hamlin, but failed. The second half saw a dominate Johnson hold the lead. The caution came out for debris off of the fourth turn. On the restart, Johnson held the lead, but Elliott lost the lead to Martin Truex Jr. The caution flew for a hard hit into the wall by AJ Allmendinger as Elliott was trying to retake second from Truex Jr. On the restart, a huge crash occurred involving Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Menard. As the final pit stops were about to begin, the engine for Hamlin blew up. After the field hit pit road for the final time, Kenseth gained the lead. Truex Jr. stalled on pit road. Kenseth got loose on the restart giving Johnson the lead. However, Johnson was able to set sail on the field to win the race. Hamlin finished second, Kasey Kahne finished third, Newman finished fourth, and Larson rounded out the top-five.
In the first time since 2007 at Kansas, five chase drivers finished 30th or worse. Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Elliott, Logano, and Harvick all has issues in the race. Truex Jr. and Hamlin are the two drivers who are in the good in the Chase Grid heading into Kansas. Austin Dillon and Elliott are three points away from the cut off line, Logano is six points away from the line, and Harvick is eight points away from the line. All drivers were involved in accidents in Charlotte.
Johnson led the most laps in the Bank of America 500 at 155 laps. Elliott led 103 laps, Hamlin led 52 laps, Harvick led 12 laps, Logano led three laps, Bowyer led two laps, and Newman and Busch led one lap. There were a total of 17 lead changes among these nine drivers.
The average speed of the race was 134.929 mph. The time of the race was 3 hours, 42 minutes,, and 47 seconds. The caution flag flew eight times for 51 laps. The margin of victory was 1.474 seconds.
Next up for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the “Round of 12” will be Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400. Motor Racing Network and NBCSN will have the call.
The Great Unknown at Charlotte
On Thursday, before all on-track activity was cancelled on Friday and Saturday, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were asked about how the will prepare during practice.
“Yeah, we learned a lot. When we unloaded in race trim and really only made one lap in qualifying trim today just because we needed to run through a bunch of things to see where the balance needed to be and applied all that to our qualifying stuff to adjust the balance. So, hopefully we can hopefully go back, and that’s usually what our guys do the best, is put all the pieces together and apply that to race stuff. So, we’ve already been talking about that some. But it is definitely going to be punching a lot of numbers and going through a lot of things that we did because that’s really what we focused on today, was race trim,” said Kevin Harvick, who will start on the pole position in the Bank of America 500.
“I think so. I think the race track gained a lot more grip than we all thought it was going to. In the past looking at previous years qualifying we haven’t really picked up from practice speeds and we picked up four tenths of a second. Kind of we know a little more of the direction it’s going to go, but at the same time I feel like a lot of the rubber is going to go away with the rain. We are kind of just going to have to wait and see what it does. We could very well be racing in the day on Sunday. I don’t think any of us really know what is going to happen here. Hopefully, it’s a night race, I feel like that is going to suit our car a little more. Charlotte tends to free up at night and we were pretty tight in practice, but either way I think we are going to have a great car,” said Alex Bowman, who will start second, after qualifying.
We unloaded in race trim instead of qualifying trim in order to work on some race stuff and kind of get some of that out of the way. Through this practice, we at least used a set of tires in order to concentrate on that, swapped over to qualifying trim because we do feel like we’re going to qualifying tonight – there’s no weather looming for that – so we needed to make sure that we were going to have a good car for qualifying and that’s pretty much it. If it’s a wash out tomorrow, we got what we got. We’ll just have to go off notes and what we did here in the spring, obviously what the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) did here in the spring – they were really, really good – so we feel like we’ve got a good baseline to base ourselves off of,” said Kyle Busch.
Today’s Bank of America 500 will be on Performance Racing Network, and simulcasted on NBC and NBCSN at 12:00 p.m. EST. The Drive for the Cure 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series will race 45 minutes after the checkered flies in the Sprint Cup race. That race will be on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network.
NASCAR Cans Saturday Action in Charlotte
NASCAR has canned all on-track activity due to rain. Tonight’s Bank of America 500 has been postponed until Sunday tentatively at 12 p.m. EST on NBC. NASCAR Xfinity Series will race 45 minutes after the conclusion of the Cup race on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network will have all the radio call for both races.
This will be the second straight weekend there will be a Sprint Cup-Xfinity doubleheader at the same track.
Crew Chatter: Charlotte
Fire up the scanner, it is time for Crew Chatter with Speedway Digest writers. This week we tackle Charlotte with the question, “Should NASCAR award the regular season champion during the Chase?”
I can see the argument here. Though I think something needs to be put into place where if the regular season saw more than 16 different winners, and the points leader went all throughout the season without a win, maybe give the 16th spot of the Chase to the driver leading the standings after race 26 should this ever happen. Same goes for the lower two series as well. It's unlikely that would ever happen, but there is still a slight possibility.
I have no opinion on whether or not regular-season leaders should be rewarded but I've been listening to all the shows on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio discuss this and some of the callers have come up with some wacky ideas. I think it should be a monetary incentive. I don't know if they still do but they have actually done this in rodeo, rewarded the regular-season winners with a certain amount of money. It's nice to leave Richmond as the points/Chase leader but when the playoffs begin, it doesn't really mean anything because the slate is wiped clean every three races.
I think NASCAR should absolutely reward a driver for "winning" the regular season based on points. It's kind of a win/win for everyone, if you think about it.
The fans that want NASCAR to revert back to the old days where points really matter and this Chase format isn't in existence, it gives them a little of that back.
The drivers already have incentive to win in the regular season, but now they would have to temper back their driving styles to a certain extent in order to remain solid based on points for the first 26 weeks of the season.
As for what I think the reward should be, that's a different story. This might not be a popular opinion, but I believe if you win the regular season, you deserve not only a bye into the Round of 12, but an automatic bid into the Round of 8.
I say this because the regular season makes up just under 75% of the season as a whole. There should be a bigger reward for the person who emerges victorious from those races as "the best", right?
I do believe that NASCAR should grant the regular season points leader something.It is sad to see that a team that has the best “record” lose that record when it comes to the Chase. Drivers work hard throughout the season, and to lose that points lead is ridiculous. What should it be? That is the question that has to be answered. I personally believe that there should be either a first round bye or that the regular season points leader have first choice of pit stall UNTIL they’re knocked out of the race. However, I will leave that decision up to the powers that be in Charlotte and Daytona.