The start of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season hasn't gone very well for Alex Bowman, or the rest of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
After replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro, Bowman started off the new year on a high note as he secured pole position for the Daytona 500.
However, after getting taken out in a late-race crash and finishing 17th, he hasn't found much luck. At Atlanta, he placed 20th before scoring his best finish yet at Las Vegas, placing 16th.
He enters the Phoenix race weekend 17th in the championship standings and although he's the highest ranked Hendrick driver, he is still far off from where he'd like to be.
“Well, Daytona went well. We had a really fast race car and contended all day and then got caught up in a wreck at the end. There is really nothing you can do there. But you know, other than that, we have not run how we expect and how we want to run. It hasn’t been a great start for us," he admitted.
"I think we unloaded at Atlanta and quickly realized that we have a lot of work to do. We’ve got the best guys in the business back at the shop working hard. We made progress last week. We were definitely better last week. We didn’t get the finish that we would have hoped for, but we are making progress. To start the year, we are behind what we expected to be, but like I said before, there is such a depth of really smart people at Hendrick Motorsports that I’m confident that we will be contending for race wins soon.”
Hopeful for Phoenix
But ISM raceway is a place that should give him some hope. When subbing for Dale Jr. in 2016, he earned pole position for the second Phoenix race, leading the most laps before colliding with Matt Kenseth in the battle for the win. He ended up sixth, the best finish of his Cup career to date.
“I really enjoy this racetrack too," he said of his home track. "Pretty successful here, wish we could close races a little better here. We have run really well here in the Xfinity Series and in the Cup Series. Just never been able to close one off. Hopefully, that all changes this weekend.”
And returning to a track he's raced at before with Team Hendrick is something that can only be an advantage for the 24-year-old.
“We have a notebook of what I liked here and a really good one at that. We were really fast here before. I think it’s a positive. We’ve got some changes. The race car has changed, we have the new car in the Camaro ZL1. A lot has changed, but at the same time at least we have something to kind of look back on and look at what changes I liked and didn’t like throughout practice and where our car was strong and where we needed work.
"I think it’s always good to have that notebook to lean on and especially here with as good of a notebook as we’ve had.”