Career-best finish doesn’t satisfy Alex Bowman

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — A career-best finish left Alex Bowman frustrated.

That’s how much things have changed for the 23-year-old Arizona native, who until this year, drove underfunded and underpowered cars in the Sprint Cup Series.

But when Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined by a concussion this summer, Hendrick Motorsports turned to Bowman and Jeff Gordon to drive the No. 88 car the rest of the year.

Bowman, who started on the pole Sunday, led a race-high 194 laps but saw his chances of winning end after contact with Matt Kenseth in overtime at Phoenix International Raceway. Bowman finished sixth.

MORE: Dale Jr. goes through gamut of emotions watching 88

He admitted part of his disappointment was with getting into Kenseth — although Kenseth’s spotter cleared Kenseth — along with not scoring a win when he had one of the best cars.

“Those last couple of restarts, I just didn’t do a very good job,’’ Bowman said on pit road after the race. “We should have been leading that last restart to begin with. That part of it is unfortunate, what happened with (Kenseth). I hate taking somebody out of the Chase like that. It ruined our day, too. There’s s no way we should have finished sixth. That’s the worst we were all day. It’s just frustrating.’’

The incident with Kenseth took place on a Lap 317 restart of what was a 324-lap race. Kenseth, who led, was on the outside lane. Bowman was on the inside.

“(Kenseth) spun his tires, and I had a pretty solid run and (Kyle Busch) hit me and I spun my tires,’’ Bowman said. “I tried to get a little low and (Busch) just turned me sideways. I was up against the inside wall. I think (Kenseth) thought he was clear. We didn’t get a terrible restart. It wasn’t the best, but we were going forward until (Busch) hit us. It’s just hard racing toward the end. You’re racing for the win in a Cup race.’’

Busch said he felt bad that his actions contributed to Kenseth, his teammate, not advancing to the championship round. Had Kenseth won, he would have advanced. Instead, Busch got the final spot.

“Right now it feels pretty s‑‑‑ty, but tomorrow it might feel a lot better,’’ Busch said of being in the title race. “I’m not sure, depends on what Matt’s interpretation is and whether or not he can forgive. You know, I just feel really bad about what happened there on that last restart. 

“It just wasn’t what I anticipated having happen, and I just feel bad. (Kenseth) should have been the Gibbs car to go through, and I was just trying to make a position there on (Bowman), felt like I was to his inside and had the position. 

“I was hoping I could get (Bowman) … and force him up and have him kind of block (Joey Logano) and check up the outside row and then I could have a position between me and (Logano) and get myself and (Kenseth) in.’’

Still, Bowman acknowledged that Kenseth might not be too happy with him even though Kenseth never said anything disparaging about Bowman after the race.

“He’s probably really mad at me right now I’d imagine, but hopefully we can move past it and race clean at Homestead,’’ Bowman said.

It will be his final race in the No. 88 with Earnhardt expected back for the start of the next season.

One more chance to drive one of the best cars in the garage.

“There were a lot of guys in the garage that can get the job done and run up front, they just don’t get the opportunity to show it, and I’m just thankful that I was given the opportunity to show it today,’’ said Bowman, whose previous career-best finish was seventh last month at Kansas. ”Our race car was really good all day.  Best car on long runs by far. It was just a lot of fun.’’

Until the end.

Despite crash, Elliott Sadler maintains lead in Xfinity points standings after Charlotte

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Despite finishing 35th because of a late crash, Elliott Sadler maintained his Xfinity Series points lead Saturday after the Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Sadler remained six points ahead of JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier. Teammate William Byron is ranked third.

With Allgaier and Ryan Reed qualified for the playoffs via victories, provisional playoff spots basesd off points currently belong to Sadler, Byron, Daniel Hemric, Darrell Wallace Jr., Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft, Michael Annett, Blake Koch, Cole Custer and Dakoda Armstrong.

Click here for the Xfinity points standings after Charlotte.

Xfinity Series results and statistics from Charlotte Motor Speedway

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Ryan Blaney scored the fifth Xfinity Series victory of his career and first since September 2015, winning the Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney seized the lead from runner-up Kevin Harvick on a restart with three laps remaining.

Austin Dillon, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.

Blaney led a race-high 107 of 200 laps.

Click here for full results from Saturday’s Xfinity race at Charlotte.

Ryan Blaney wins Charlotte Xfinity race for first victory in series since September 2015

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ryan Blaney won Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blaney took the lead from Kevin Harvick on a restart with three laps to go.

It’s his fifth Xfinity Series win and the first for Team Penske in 2017. It’s Blaney’s first Xfinity victory since Sept. 26, 2015 at Kentucky Speedway.

Blaney was followed by Harvick, Austin Dillon, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin.

“I thought we were going to run out of laps to make it happen,” Blaney said, who was aided by a series of rapid cautions in the closing laps.

“We got a good restart and I was able to barely stay on (Harvick’s) quarter (panel) off of (Turn) 2 and dragged him back into (Turn) 3,” Blaney told Fox Sports 1. “I’m very proud, but you’re going to feel really bad if you mess up and don’t win. That’s what I thought was going to happen. I didn’t know if we were going to get our shot to get back to the lead. I don’t want to say the caution went our way because we kind of needed long runs. But they worked out so we could put ourselves in a position to  capitalize on it.”

Driving the No. 12 Ford, Blaney led four times for 107 laps on the way to the victory. Blaney raced to the front after starting from the rear for unapproved adjustments. He is the first driver to win after going to the rear since Marcos Ambrose at Montreal in 2011.

Blaney’s win comes 11 year after his father, Dave Blaney, won the fall Xfinity race at Charlotte. They are the first father-son duo to win at Charlotte in the Xfinity Series.

Stage 1 winner: Kevin Harvick

Stage 2 winner: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: On the third lap of his Xfinity career, Christopher Bell was turned by Ryan Reed on the frontstretch and slid through the grass. He continued on and battled back to finish fourth. …. Brennan Poole brought out a caution with 42 to go after he got into the frontstretch wall, but managed to finish eighth. … Brad Keselowski finished sixth after starting 39th. He started there after multiple trips through inspection kept him from making a qualifying run. … Brendan Gaughan finished ninth after he spun exiting Turn 4 late in the race.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Michael Annett’s day ended with 25 to go when he got into the wall on a restart and went to the garage. He finished 36th …. On the next restart, points leader Elliott Sadler spun in Turn 4 and hit the inside wall hard. He was uninjured and finished 35th … Darrell Wallace Jr. was having his best race of the year, including leading three laps in the final stage, when it came unraveled. He brushed the Turn 4 wall with seven laps to go. He then lost a tire and spun in Turn 2. He finished 28th.

NOTABLE: Not counting the end of each stage, the race was slowed by 10 cautions.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Give him a sponsor, man. He passed me on a restart and drove away from me. It was awesome.” – Ryan Blaney on his battle for the lead with Darrell Wallace Jr. at the start of the final stage.

WHAT’S NEXT: OneMain Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on June 2 on Fox Sports 1.

Kyle Larson fastest in final practice for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kyle Larson topped the final practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 with a speed at 186.400 mph.

The Cup points leader, Larson will start 39th in the race because his No. 42 Chevrolet didn’t clear inspection in time to qualify.

Ryan Blaney (185.861), Matt Kenseth (185.046), Kurt Busch (184.856) and Erik Jones (184.818) rounded out the top five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was seventh fastest at 184.433 mph. Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was 20th fastest at 182.648 mph.

Jimmie Johnson recorded the most laps in the session with 47.

Jamie McMurray had the best 10-lap average at 180.914 mph.

The session was stopped for a caution once after Brad Keselowski spun exiting Turn 4.

Click here for the full practice report.