Last Sunday was a forgettable one for Alex Bowman, Greg Ives and the entire No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. They entered the Cook Out Southern 500 with the sixth seed in the 16-man opening round of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. At the end of 500 grueling miles, Bowman dropped to 13th in the standings following a frustrating night filled with cut tires, crashes with a teammate and fires on pit road.
Gone is Darlington, and now, Bowman and the No. 48 team will look to work their way back ahead of the cutline in the Playoffs at a track that they performed quite well at earlier in the season — Richmond Raceway.
The 28-year old driver only led 10 laps at Richmond back in April, but they were the most important 10 laps of the race — the final ones. Getting around Denny Hamlin, who had dominated the race by leading 207 laps, and pulling away to the win, set the tone for the No. 48 team in 2021.
Bowman hopes that the 0.75-mile oval can serve as a resetting of the tone after a rough outing at Darlington, and he has extra confidence as he’ll be driving his race-winning car from April this weekend.
“Going back to Richmond is something to look forward to this week,” Bowman said in a Team Chevy release. “Richmond is a track where our No. 48 team feels really strong at and we are bringing the same car from earlier this year when we ended up in victory lane.”
For Ives, Bowman’s crew chief, having the same car that won back in April on the track is a nice feeling, but he knows if they want to win again this weekend, it’ll be important to make sure the car has been adjusted properly to be even better than last time out.
“It is going to be the same car and same chassis but obviously different things that you’re able to do, either to make it better or in NASCAR’s world, you’re able to regulate or put a little more sight and difficulties on you,” Ives said.
“That’s ultimately the goal — to bring a better race car and try not to reinvent the wheel. For the most part, the general setup is going to be very close. Just trying to fine tune and then make things a little bit better,” Ives explained further.
While there is comfort in having their race-winning car back at a track they feel they can run well at, Bowman knows there is very little, to no room for error this weekend.
“After last week, we need to rebound and capitalize on a good night on Saturday,” Bowman said. “There’s not a lot of comfort going forward the next two weeks, but we are going to two places we know we can be strong and have good runs.”
Bowman is locked in a tie on points with Tyler Reddick for the final Playoff spot after Darlington, however, Reddick owns the tie-breaker due to best finish in the Round of 16, so far. Will Bowman and the No. 48 team work themselves back into the Playoff picture this weekend?
Tune into the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 11th at 7:30 PM ET on NBCSN.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.