MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — It took six races but Alex Bowman earned his first top 10 of 2018 at Martinsville Speedway of all places.
On pit road after finishing seventh in the STP 500, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet listed all the tracks he would have expected to produce that result before the half-mile track.
“I mean, Daytona and then if not Daytona, then Phoenix, then Atlanta and if not Atlanta…,” Bowman said before trailing off.
In his first year driving the No. 88 for Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman entered Monday’s race having finished no better than 13th twice. His highlight was winning the pole for the Daytona 500. But he finished 17th after being involved in a wreck with two laps to go.
Monday also saw his second lead-lap finish through six races.
“We’re here to win races every week,” Bowman continued. “To take this long to get a top 10, it’s not what we wanted at all, but glad we’re going the right way.”
Bowman was the highest-placing Chevy driver, finishing ahead of Allmendinger (eighth) and teammate Chase Elliott (ninth).
Bowman found himself in the top 10 after starting 16th. It is his first Cup top 10 since the fall 2016 race at Phoenix, a race where he led 194 laps from the pole and finished sixth while substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I felt like I had some good observations after second practice on some things I wanted to change and they seemed to pay off big during the race or at least be the right direction in the race,” Bowman said. “Every stop we got better, we had solid pit stops all day, our pit crew worked really hard. Just good decisions on top of the pit box and a good race car.”
Bowman was “a little wore out” after his first Martinsville race since 2015. He said he made changes in the cockpit that “made me able to go faster, but probably wore me out a little quicker.
“Glad I didn’t fall out of the seat there, cause it was pretty physical,” he said. “But it was fun.”
The result was also his first time finishing highest among his Hendrick teammates since Daytona. The team only has one top five heading into the off week.
“Nobody’s really made a big deal of anything,” Bowman said. “Obviously, you read media stuff and everybody’s all fired up. We’re off, but everybody’s real motivated and working harder. It’s a lot of guys that have won a lot of races and they want to get back to that winning feeling.”
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