KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For Alex Bowman and Greg Ives, their final playoff run as a driver-crew chief tandem is off to a convincing start.
After a respectable run at Darlington Raceway in the playoff opener, Bowman came out the gates swinging again at Kansas Speedway, passing Joey Logano for control of the race on Lap 3. Bowman went on to lead a race-high 107 laps, trouncing his total for the previous 27 races combined and dominating Stage 2.
But as the afternoon went on, a pit-road miscue and waning speed left the No. 48 in fourth at the checkered flag.
“We had a fast car all day,” Ives told NASCAR.com after the race. “Short-run speed was really good for us. But after about 35 laps, we tended to fall off a little bit. That’s where I felt like the Gibbs cars were a little bit better than us on those longer runs. That final stage staying green kinda hurt us.”
Bowman held on for fourth place, securing his first top-five result since Dover Motor Speedway in May. It’s clear the No. 48 team has flipped the switch, cranking up the intensity after a so-so summer.
“[The playoffs] are when you need to turn it on if you’re gonna do it,” Bowman said. “While I want to run like this all year long and have more consistency than we’ve had this year, it’s definitely good to be on it when it counts.”
Entering the playoffs just two spots above the Round of 16 cutline, Bowman has improved his standing to sixth in just two weeks.
But he has more on his mind than just his playoff performance, wanting to go out on a high note with the seasoned leader atop his box since he joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2018.
“Regardless of how the playoffs go, I wanna have fun with Greg these next eight weeks,” Bowman said after the race. “He deserves that. He’s a heck of a crew chief and it’s a very bittersweet thing not having him next year. So just trying to make the most of it and we’ve had good race cars the last couple of weeks and finally we’re finishing where we deserve.
Nonetheless, Ives and company remain hungry to improve on the little things happening on the race track in pursuit of their first title — and they know they’re capable of peaking at the right time.
“Alex is doing a great job and the team is coming together well,” Ives said. “Minus two hiccups [on pit road], I think we would have had a pretty good Stage 1 as well. So, all in all a good day, we just always want more.”
Their next chance for more comes in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), a crucial elimination race to set the Round of 12.