Alex Bowman ready for end of most grueling week of his career

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By the time Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway ends, Alex Bowman will be ready to run another race: from his car to his bed.

When the checkered flag drops at Miami, Bowman and the rest of his Cup counterparts will have competed in three full-length races in just eight days.

The streak started last Sunday with a 500-mile race at Atlanta, followed by a 500-lap race Wednesday at Martinsville, and will conclude with the 400-mile race at Miami.

“I think this week has been probably been the most grueling of my career,” Bowman said Friday in a media teleconference. “The recovery process has definitely changed, the workout process during the week has changed quite a bit.

“But this week, with 500 miles at Atlanta, two days to turn around and go to Martinsville for 500 laps where it’s super-hot – we have right side windows in short track cars now, so there’s no air flow – it was the hottest I’ve ever been in my entire life in a race car on Wednesday night.

“That was really tough, lost a ton of weight on Wednesday night. Trying to put that back on for Sunday is difficult, trying to get rehydrated for Sunday is difficult. The previous couple of weeks, I would have told you no, everything is good and it’s no problem. But this week has been a tough one.”

A tired Alex Bowman rests outside of his car following Wednesday night’s race at Martinsville. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won at Fontana shortly before the COVID-19 hiatus. When NASCAR returned to racing, he finished second in the first race back (Darlington).

He struggled in the next four races: 18th in the second Darlington race, 19th and 31st at Charlotte and 37th at Bristol.

But Bowman seems back on track with a 12th-place finish at Atlanta and sixth at Martinsville.

“As far as how things are going for our team and how things have gone this year, I don’t necessarily think things are coming easier,” Bowman said. “We’re working harder than ever, I’m working harder than ever on and off the race track and doing everything I can to be prepared each and every week.

“But I think our on-track product has been better for our race team. We’ve led more laps this year than in previous years. We’ve thrown some races away, for sure. I think the second Charlotte was a race that I threw away single-handedly and I’ve been pretty frustrated with that ever since then.”

Bowman believes his finish at Martinsville could be a significant turning point.

“When we have fast race cars each and every week, there’s always next week and I feel like that’s been a thing that’s really giving us a lot of confidence,” Bowman said. “We went to a race track that we were absolutely horrendous at last year (finished 14th and 30th in 2019) on Wednesday night – going to Martinsville – and we ran sixth.

“We had a really great race car, so I think we’re improving in every area. I just need to do a little better job putting complete races together. But I think things are definitely coming together.”

Sunday’s race marks the first time since 2002 that NASCAR has not raced at Miami on the season-ending and championship-deciding weekend.

“I think the on-track stuff will be really similar, it’s just kind of that off-track, last day of school-type feel that it probably won’t have and will be a little different,” Bowman said.

Following Sunday’s race, Bowman and the rest of the Cup Series has a nearly seven-day reprieve to rest and recover from this week before action resumes June 21 at the largest and one of the most difficult tracks in the sport, Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday.

Although there was one Cup practice session scheduled for next Saturday afternoon, NASCAR decided Saturday to eliminate the June 20 session at Talladega after consulting teams.

“I’m a big fan of this no-practice thing, I’m really enjoying it,” Bowman said a day before NASCAR’s decision was announced. “I feel like we run about the same and gives me less time to dial us out for the race.

“I’m all for no practice. Obviously, the rule changes, I think we’ll all be able to adapt to that really quickly and the teams will do a really good job of having the cars prepared how they need to be for that event and I’m all good for it.”

But first, Bowman has to stay alert and awake in Miami: “I’m ready to go, should be a good one for us.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021

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Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.