We’re one race into the Round of 12 and the final two spots on the good side of the playoff bubble belong to Hendrick Motorsports drivers Alex Bowman and William Byron. Who would have guessed that it would be those two and not Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott?
Byron though, had a big missed opportunity last Sunday at the Dover International Speedway. The second year driver started the Drydene 400 in sixth and had a top five car for the first half of the race. Byron, was in the top five in the first stage and was running there in Stage 2 before getting hit with a pit road speeding penalty in their lone stop of the second stage.
Instead of being in the top five, he was outside the top 10, one lap down. He’d never rebound and come home 13th. Still, despite that, he made up five points on the playoff bubble and heads to the Talladega Superspeedway this weekend tied with defending series champion Joey Logano for the eighth and final spot that advances to the next round.
“That was a bummer for sure,” Byron said on his Dover penalty. “We had a pretty good car. We couldn’t really make many passes, but we were able to get from the back after having to start pretty close to the tail end. It just really hurt our day. But overall, the guys did a good job and got out of here with a decent points day, I guess. We’ll just have to go on strong next week.”
While Talladega is always a concern for the playoff drivers, Byron is keeping a positive vibe for the 1000Bulbs.com 500. Hendrick cars finished 1-2 on the 2.66-mile superspeedway back in late April and were 2-3 in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the Daytona International Speedway in July.
“Our cars are always fast at Talladega, so we’ll just have to go there, lay it out there and see what happens,” said Byron of this weekend’s race.
Byron, is trending in the right direction and has had fast race cars himself. If he can get a top five on Sunday, he’ll be in good shape.
Bowman Looking To Keep Momentum Going
No one predicted that Bowman would advance out of the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs too. The Hendrick Motorsports driver had one top 10 finish in the last nine races of the regular season. Furthermore, he had one top five result over the final 14 races.
But, once he got into the postseason, his No. 88 Chevrolet team has turned things around. He heads to the Talladega Superspeedway on the heels of three top six finishes in four tries during the playoffs.
Bowman, was sixth in Vegas, second on the Charlotte ROVAL and now runner-up last weekend in Dover. That has him +17 in the playoff standings with just two races remaining in the Round of 12.
With how he’s running right now, it would be shocking to see Bowman left out of the third round of the Cup playoffs.
At Talladega, he finished runner-up to his teammate Chase Elliott back in April and has two top eight finishes in his last three tries.