DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If Alex Bowman wants to shed a nickname he doesn’t particularly like—“Bowman the Showman”—he took a good first step in Thursday night’s first Can-Am Duel 150-mile qualifying race.
Locked into the top starting spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500 by virtue of his pole-winning performance, Bowman was a virtual no-show in the qualifying race. After leading the field to green, Bowman steered his No. 88 Chevrolet to the top of the track, dropped to the rear and stayed there for the rest of the event.
This was all by design. With his starting spot assured, Bowman was protecting his car for the Great American Race—even if it meant sacrificing a chance to earn points for a top-10 finish. Because he didn’t run in last Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash, Bowman will start the Daytona 500 without any real competitive experience in the draft.
Kevin Harvick provided a harsh analysis of Bowman’s choice.
“Alex Bowman didn’t learn anything today, in my opinion,” Harvick said. “They’ll go out and practice (on Friday). Riding around starting on the pole is great, but not knowing what your car is going to do is a complete waste of time, in my opinion.”
It’s not completely true, though, that Bowman learned nothing. He and his team spent the race practicing pit stops under NASCAR’s new rules, which have reduced the number of over-the-wall put crew members from six to five—thereby requiring a completely different choreography.
The pit-stop practice, and the information learned from it, could benefit the entire Hendrick Motorsports organization.
In Friday’s second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, Daniel Suarez posted the fastest lap of Speedweeks so far, powering his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to an average speed of 203.179 mph in the draft. Ryan Newman was second fastest at 202.945 mph, followed by Michael McDowell at 202.867 mph. Suarez also was fastest in Friday’s first session with a lap at 199.840 mph…
On Friday, Austin Dillon joined the list of drivers who will start the Daytona 500 in backup cars, bringing the total to eight. Though Dillon finished sixth in Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel qualifying race, his car sustained enough damage to warrant rolling out the backup. When the 20 (Erik Jones) crashed, he come across and knocked (Dillon’s) whole front end down and bent the front snout down,” said team owner Richard Childress. “That’s where all the sparks were coming from.”