LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) — Alex Bowman appears again ultimately yr’s return to Nashville Superspeedway as a little bit of a bust.
The weekend opened simply high-quality: Hendrick Motorsports introduced a two-year contract extension with Bowman that locked him within the No. 48 Chevrolet via 2023. The deal aligned Bowman with sponsor Ally’s dedication to this system.
However Ally additionally had gone all-in on NASCAR’s return to Music Metropolis because the title sponsor of the primary Cup race within the Nashville space in 37 years. Ally was all around the metropolis because it hosted trade occasions at standard vacationer stops, displayed inventory automobiles on Decrease Broadway, and branded its logos throughout Nashville Superspeedway.
Bowman felt an obligation to carry out, however as an alternative completed 14th a s Hendrick teammate Kyle Larson received.
“I really feel like we undoubtedly underperformed at Nashville,” Bowman mentioned. “It was a bummer for it being the Ally 400, so we’re all in on attempting to get our race automobile higher. Something Ally does, they’re all in on. I’m excited for the entire weekend’s actions and simply attempting to do our greatest to placed on present.”
He heads into Sunday’s race with one victory this season — Bowman received a career-best 4 occasions final yr — and at ninth within the Cup standings he is at present solidly locked into the playoffs.
The strain nonetheless exists, although, partially due to Bowman’s lengthy journey to earn one in all NASCAR’s prime Cup rides. He drove unhealthy automobiles for 2 years, signed a take care of Hendrick in 2016 as a reserve driver for 10 races whereas Dale Earnhardt Jr. was injured, after which did not get a single begin in 2017.
Hendrick put Bowman in Earnhardt’s automobile in 2018 when Earnhardt retired, and he stayed within the No. 88 for 3 seasons. However when seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson mentioned he was leaving NASCAR on the finish of the 2020 season, Ally advised Rick Hendrick it needed Bowman within the No. 48.
“I’m not going to misinform you, when Mr. Hendrick advised me that I used to be driving the No. 48, I used to be tremendous nervous,” Bowman mentioned. “I didn’t know anyone at Ally but. I simply didn’t know the way it was going to go. It has been superior.”
And his season thus far? Properly, like all of Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman remains to be adapting to the Subsequent Gen automobile. Hendrick collected its eighth win of the season at Nashville final yr, and Bowman’s win the subsequent week at Pocono gave the group six consecutive Cup wins.
This yr the Hendrick drivers have simply 5 wins via the primary 16 races as NASCAR returns for its second season at Nashville Superspeedway following its solely off weekend on the 38-race schedule.
“I don’t assume we’re fairly the place we wish to be. I feel we’ve had a tough couple of weeks,” mentioned Bowman, who mentioned NASCAR’s Cup debut in St. Louis final month “wasn’t fairly for any of the HMS automobiles and I feel we’ve acquired somewhat bit of labor to do.
“I’m trying ahead to seeing how we come out after the week off and the little little bit of a reset we’ve had. Hopefully we’re actually sturdy in Nashville. I feel lots can change after a weekend off, so we’ll see the place we stack up.”
NASCAR rookie Todd Gilliland used the one off weekend on the Cup schedule to go racing. It paid off with a win as Gilliland made his debut driving for his father and received the Truck Collection race at Knoxville Speedway.
It was an enormous increase for the 22-year-old rookie with Entrance Row Motorsports. Gilliland’s greatest end this season is fifteenth and he is twenty ninth within the Cup standings.
“We did sort of discuss how the Cup Collection will knock you down fast,” Gilliland mentioned. “To get a win is large. It’s sort of virtually like a special mindset.”
After feeling he was making regular progress in his first few Cup races, Gilliland has now realized what a curler coaster a NASCAR season could be for a rookie.
“Originally of the season, it appeared like we had been slowly getting somewhat bit higher — just a few spots each week,” he mentioned. “You possibly can simply actually really feel the progress after which as soon as it stalls out it’s actually exhausting to search for any small victory in any respect. However I feel lately we’ve been unloading sooner with extra pace. For some time there we had been actually far off after we would unload.
“Regardless that we haven’t actually gained a ton of spots, we’ve gained fairly a little bit of time based mostly on the place we had been at first of the yr.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Defending race winner Kyle Larson is the 9-2 favourite, per FanDuel. … NBC takes over its portion of the NASCAR schedule this weekend at Nashville, with practically 15 hours of protection deliberate throughout NBC, Peacock and USA Community. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte would be the analysts for each the Cup race on Sunday and the Xfinity Collection race on Saturday.
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