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.

NASCAR America: Bubba Wallace on qualifying: ‘It’s our job to cheat the system’

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Much of the talk in NASCAR this week has been around the controversial final round of Cup qualifying at Auto Club Speedway, which saw no drivers make a qualifying run after they left pit road too late to make a lap.

Bubba Wallace didn’t advance to the final round, but he’s been in a similar situation. In 2014 at Michigan, Wallace was in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at ACS’ sister track. Qualifying for that event ended with only one truck, driven by Ryan Blaney, reaching the start-finish line in time to make a lap.

“It’s our job to cheat the system,” Wallace said on NASCAR America presents Motormouths. “In today’s world, with the package and how it works out, if you’re the front car, you’re the tow. You’re the tow truck. You’re towing everybody else behind you. You’re at a disadvantage. No one wants to be at a disadvantage.

“So we’re going to cheat the system until they do something about it. Then we’re going to find a new way to cheat the new system.”

Watch the above video to see Wallace discuss more about how he fared during the West Coast Swing.

Updated entry lists for Cup, Truck at Martinsville

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Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – STP 500 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the sixth Cup race of the year. D.J. Kennington is listed in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports entry.

Jeb Burton is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Ford.

Click here for the entry list.

Gander Outdoors Truck – Martinsville 250 (2 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered. Those also entered in the Cup race are Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain. Bubba Wallace is entered in AM Racing’s No. 22 truck.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America Motormouths at 5 p.m. ET with Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America presents Motormouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Rutledge Wood hosts with Kyle Petty and they’ll be joined by special guest Bubba Wallace.

Fans will have the chance to call into the show to ask questions.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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