Bowman makes statement with first XFINITY Series win at Charlotte
By Tyler Head
October 8, 2017
CONCORD, N.C.–Alex Bowman surged through the field Saturday in the Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the final restart and never looked back to secure his first XFINITY Series win.
The victory came in his 51st career start in the series and is his first in any of NASCAR’s top-three series.
Bowman, who will replace retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. as driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy Cup Series in 2018, said he hoped the win would silence some of his doubters.
“Definitely gives myself a mental stamp of approval that I can do it,” Bowman said. “On top of that, to be out of the car so long it’s awesome to get back in the car and know that there are a few things that I’m rusty on, but for the most part I didn’t feel like I lost much.
“Hopefully [the win] puts some of the people that were talking to rest because we’re going into 2018 to win a lot of races in that 88 car,” he added.
Bowman had to pick his way through traffic on the race’s final restart with 34 laps to go after pitting for fresh tires. He was able to do so in short order, passing William Byron for the lead with 31 laps to go.
Bowman surged out to a comfortable lead over Sam Hornish Jr. and maintained it throughout the final run to the checkered flag. Hornish finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Brennan Poole.
Reed advances to second round of playoffs by one point
Ryan Reed, who started the 2017 season with a win at Daytona, advanced to the second round of the XFINITY Series playoffs with a 12th place finish Saturday night.
Reed had just a one point advantage over Brendan Gaughan, who was the first driver out of the playoffs, throughout the final run to the checkered flag Saturday night and had to hold off Gaughan’s Richard Childress Racing teammate Brandon Jones to keep that advantage.
“I raced my guts out,” Reed said with smile on pit road after the race. “That’s probably the hardest five laps I’ve ever driven in a racecar. But that’s what it takes.”
Looking ahead to Round 2, Reed said his team has its work cut out to make the championship race.
“We gotta find a lot more speed,” Reed conceded. “The guys that we gotta beat coming up in the next round–they’re getting stage points every time. They’re top-10 cars, top-five cars. You may not have to win a race to get to Homestead, but you’re going to have to be a consistent top-five car and we’re not a top-five car right now. So we’ve gotta figure it out.”
Field of 8 set for second playoff round
Based on unofficial results, advancing to Round 2 are William Byron, Daniel Hemric, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Brennan Poole, Reed, Cole Custer and Matt Tifft. Gaughan, Michael Annett, Blake Koch and Jeremy Clements were eliminated from the playoffs Saturday night.
One wrinkle in that unofficial lineup is Tifft, whose car was found to be too low in post-race inspection, according to NASCAR. Any resulting penalty would be announced mid-week, however similar infractions earlier this season have yielded a 10-point penalty. Tifft was 16 points ahead of the cutoff.
The second round includes races at 1.5-milers Kansas and Texas and concludes at the 1-mile track in Phoenix. Championship contenders said there will be little room for error.
“I think just be more consistent the next round,” Byron said when asked what it will take to advance to the championship race. “Probably just be focused and have really solid runs and make sure we do that and I think we’ll advance.”
“There’s definitely some things we need to work on,” Byron’s teammate Elliott Sadler said. “We’re gonna keep working on our mile and a half program. We got Kansas and Texas coming up, two mile and a half tracks, and we gotta be good at both of those tracks. We’ll keep working hard to create some speed at those places.”
“You can’t have any mistakes if you’re going to make it to Homestead,” Tifft said. “Obviously every week we’re going to try to go with no mistakes and try to be patient and be cool about it. We have our work cut out for us for sure.”
26 points separate Byron, who leads the points entering Round 2, and Tifft, who enters eighth. Round 2 begins at Kansas Speedway on October 21.
Kyle Stephens/The Racing Experts