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NASCAR Xfinity: Alex Bowman wins at Charlotte

Alex Bowman celebrates in victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway after winning the Drive for the Cure 300 on Oct. 7, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Alex Bowman celebrates in victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway after winning the Drive for the Cure 300 on Oct. 7, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Alex Bowman kicked off his two-race deal with Chip Ganassi Racing with his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Bowman’s win of the Drive for the Cure 200 was the second win in three races for CGR’s No. 42 team, with both those wins being drivers’ first-time wins, as Tyler Reddick drove the car to victory lane at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta two weeks earlier.

“I can’t thank Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and Chip Ganassi enough for letting me drive this car,” Bowman said. “To get my first win here at my second home in Charlotte means so such. Thank you so much to all the fans for sticking out this rain delay. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced. My pit stops were terrible. I didn’t do a good job on pit road, but I felt like my restarts were really good. It feels amazing to finally get us one.”

Sam Hornish Jr. finished second, Ryan Blaney was third, Austin Dillon fourth and Brennan Poole finished fifth to be the highest-finishing Xfinity Series regular.

“I think if it had been anybody else other than my teammate or Bowman winning, I’d probably been pretty disappointed with tonight for as fast as we were, but the fact that we stuck with it,” Hornish said. “The car was great.  We needed long runs and didn’t have any early on in the race.  Finally got the car adjusted right where we thought we needed to be and kind of overstepped it.  On that last restart, I kind of got stuck on the bottom and it also freed the car up a little bit right there too, knowing that we’re gonna be back in traffic.  It took us a little bit longer.  The top lane rolled and the 2 [Austin Dillon] and the 42 were able to make a lot of ground on us there early, and it was everything that Alex needed to be able to win and it was a bit of fighting for me to be able to get back second.  By the time I had a slip-up underneath the 22 (Blaney) car.  I’m really glad we didn’t end up getting together.  I figured I kind of slid around the corner long enough that I figured I wasn’t gonna correct until he was past me again and made the right-rear tire mad and it took us about five or six laps to get that calmed back down, go back after him and just not enough time there at the end.”

After start of the race was delayed for over five hours by rain, the playoff field was whittled from 12 to eight drivers with Ryan Reed taking the final advancing playoff spot by a single point over Brendan Gaughan. Gaughan finished the race one position ahead of Reed, just one position outside the top-10, in 11th.

“We were getting the 1 (Elliot Sadler), but we need Brandon (Jones) to get in front of (Reed), but a good run,” Gaughan said. “We had a decent season, but I wouldn’t say great. We’re going to go on and try to see if we can win a couple of races.”

The eight drivers who were provisionally in advancing positions before the race were the same eight who officially advanced. Other drivers who didn’t make the cut included Michael Annett, Blake Koch and Jeremy Clements.

When the race finally got underway at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET, Daniel Suarez dominated, leading 111 of the 200 laps that made up the race, mostly in the first half. Although he led most of the first half of the race, Erik Jones won the first 45-lap stage after taking the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Suarez, on lap 41. Suarez, though, was up front at the end of the second stage that ended at lap 90. Jones wound up with a 30th-place finish after wrecking in the second half of the race.

Blaney got out of the pits ahead of Suarez during the sixth caution of the race that came out on lap 121 and ran up front, with Suarez behind him in second, until several drivers, led by William Byron, opted to stay out during the final yellow flag of the race on lap 160.

With the benefit of new tires, Bowman moved into the lead soon after the final restart and ran up front the remaining distance. Hornish took second inside the final 20 laps.

“I thought we had a pretty decent car,” Blaney said. “We started off great.  I thought we lacked a little bit of speed, and I was real loose.  We did a pretty good job of getting it tighter to where it might be a little bit better.  We got the lead on pit road, which is good.  They did a great job on pit road all night with really fast stops and that helped out a bunch.  On that last restart, we got running there and some cars stayed out.  They gambled a little bit and we got stuck behind the 5 (Annett) little bit.  The 42 did a good job.  He got a big run on the top and drove away from us.  He was better than us that last run, anyway.  We lost a little bit of speed, there.  It stinks we couldn’t have won that race, but I thought we learned a little bit and, hopefully, we can apply that tomorrow (in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race).”

Justin Allgaier, the points leader heading into the Charlotte race, clinched his second-round playoff spot by being fourth in the running order at the end of the opening stage. He gave up his points lead to Byron, though, as a result of damage to the front-end of his car that led to overheating problems, ultimately ending with a blown engine just past the halfway point of the race.

Byron reassumed the points lead with a 16th-place race finish.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric, Suarez, Matt Tifft and Elliott Sadler.

Aside from Allgaier, Reed and Byron, other drivers advancing to round two of the playoffs include Poole, Custer, Hemric, Tifft and Sadler.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on October 8, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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