While Martin Truex Jr. got the accolades and the trophy after he started from the rear and won Monday’s Cup race at Dover, Alex Bowman wasn’t any slouch.
Like Truex, Bowman started the 400-lap race from the rear due to inspection violations. But he quickly established his No. 88 Chevrolet had competitive speed and drove to his second consecutive runner-up finish.
“It would be better if we had a trophy, right?” Bowman told Fox Sports 1. “We needed this, for sure. Talladega is a speedway, it’s a lot of luck involved. To come here to, in my opinion, the hardest racetrack we go to, run like that from the back of all things, was pretty special.”
Bowman, who finished second to Chase Elliott at Talladega, put on arguably the most impressive performance of his Cup career, which reached start No. 127 Monday.
By Lap 20 Bowman was in the top 20. With 30 laps left in the first stage he was in 10th. He cracked the top five with six laps left in the stage before finishing seventh in a one-lap shootout.
He entered the top three on Lap 176 and after a series of green flag pit stops passed Elliott for the lead on Lap 224.
Bowman would spend the next 16 laps trying to fend off Elliott, then Kevin Harvick and finally Truex.
On the last lap of the second stage, Bowman washed up the track in Turn 2 allowing Truex to assume the lead.
Bowman never led again.
“We were in Martin’s way,” Bowman told Fox Sports 1 after the race. “I wish I was in his way at the end of the race. We at least had a shot at it. That’s really all you can ask for.”
Before last weekend’s Talladega race, Bowman had never finished better than third in his Cup career. Now he has two runner-up finishes after not having any top 10s through the first nine races of the season.
“So proud of (crew chief) Greg Ives, everybody on this 88 team,” Bowman said. “We had a miserable start to the season. We did a really good job resetting over the off week. We’ve come out strong since then.
“Just proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for all the improvement we’ve made over the last year or so. We’re going to keep it going.”
Bowman led a solid day for Hendrick Motorsports which saw its fortunes start to turn around with Elliott’s win at Talladega.
Elliott started from the pole and led a career-high 145 laps, but the majority of that came in the first two stages. His fifth-place finish is his sixth top five at Dover in seven starts.
“We just fell off there at the end of that second stage,” Elliott said. “That was the time of the race that we needed to be controlling it and not falling back. Just a bad time to have a bad half of a run and that is kind of what happened. So, we were fast, just not fast enough when it really mattered.”
William Byron logged his best finish at Dover, bringing his No. 24 Chevrolet home in eighth after he started on the front row with Elliott. He has two top 10s this season.
“We had the strategy deal where we took two tires and got some stage points,” Byron said. “Then we had to start at the back, and ultimately we were clawing our way back the whole race. We finished behind (Joey Logano), and we both started in the back, which was unfortunate. The guys brought a really fast car that was a lot of fun.”
The race marks the first time three Hendrick cars have finished in the top 10 since the Charlotte Roval last year (18 races).