KANSAS CITY, Kan.—Three times was not a charm for Alex Bowman.
The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had to settle for the bridesmaid’s role once again after Brad Keselowski topped Bowman at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night.
With his third-straight second-place finish, Bowman has vaulted from 21st to 12th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings in the last three races. But another great points day was hardly consolation for the 26-year-old racer.
“It was a really good day,” Bowman said. “But when you’re that close, it’s just frustrating.”
Several of NASCAR’s younger set have experienced similar situations where they had to endure a lot of disappointment prior visiting Victory Lane. Kyle Larson earned four runner-up finishes before scoring his first win. Bowman’s teammate, Chase Elliott, had eight second-place results leading up to his breakthrough win.
Bowman has already matched his three top-five finishes from last year in the first 12 races. He has also surpassed his 71 laps led last year with 86. On Saturday, he held the point three times for a total of 63 laps. Bowman was in the lead with six laps remaining in the race, but when the Digital Ally 400 went into overtime he couldn’t catch Keselowski.
“I should have ripped the top and not worried about the 2 car,” Bowman said in retrospect. “Dumbass me tried to overthink it. And I did just that.”
As the race wound down, Bowman’s spotter Kevin Hamlin encouraged him to be more aggressive. Bowman’s crew chief Greg Ives pressed his driver to opt for a good points day.
Bowman wasn’t conflicted by the two voices offering contrasting strategies in the closing laps.
“You have to listen to anyone that’s giving you any information,” Bowman said. “We had a really good car, I just made bad decisions going through lapped traffic on lane choice. They stayed where I needed to run.
“I should have gone high and I shouldn’t have picked the middle like I did. I just had to lift and let the 2 and the 20 (Erik Jones) drive right around me. I’m pretty frustrated with myself. There was no way around that, that was a bad mistake on my part.”
What did he learn battling the Keselowski, who scored his 30th-career Cup win on Saturday night?
“Just stick to what you know and don’t overthink it,” Bowman said. “I overthought the (crap) out of it. When you’re out there running wide open, it’s all about lane choice and how you play the air. It’s almost like running Talladega. I know I should be happy, just really dang frustrated.”
Three of the Hendrick Chevys finished in the top 10 at Kansas Speedway with Bowman leading the way for the second week. He finished second to Elliott at Talladega. Despite his disappointment, Bowman is confident a win is coming.
“Absolutely, all of our cars are super competitive,” Bowman said. “All of our cars are close to getting to Victory Lane. Obviously, the 9 won a couple of weeks ago. We’ll get one soon.”