Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
He’s not a rookie — he actually has two full Cup seasons under his belt — but Alex Bowman might as well be one in some respects. He’s seen the tracks, but he’s never really raced against the top drivers in the series on a weekly basis for a top finish, and he has proved worthy almost every step of the way as a fill-in driver for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. this season. B
owman obviously has talent, and he’s looking for a ride for next year, with no full-time deal on the table yet. The question mark with Bowman is his attitude. There were rumblings that he didn’t mesh with his team at BK Racing or Tommy Baldwin Racing, and if that’s a real issue, word probably got around. Bowman wouldn’t be the first driver to lose out on rides because he was difficult (where’s James Buescher these days?), but if he has outgrown his past issues, he could be a valuable asset to a team.
What… is the takeaway from this race?
The race at Phoenix was a good one, with lots of action, plenty of mistakes, and almost a surprise winner. But there’s no doubt that the Chase scenario ramped up the excitement as the laps ticked down and it was a matter of “if this guy finishes ahead of that guy, the other guy gets a spot,” which was riveting.
At the same time, though, did the Chase scenario make the actual racing better? That’s a tougher call. There’s no doubt that the six drivers whose season was on the line gave their all, but there was still the lingering doubt of authenticity—if the elimination format is a gimmick to make the races seem more exciting, well, it does. But at then end of the day, does that erase the perception that it is nothing more than a gimmick? It’s an odd juxtaposition, the frenetic pace of the race and constantly fluid title scenarios and the idea that it ultimately cheapens the title instead of making it better. It’s an odd mix of excitement and “oh, wait…”
Where… did the pole-sitter and the defending race winner wind up?
Alex Bowman won the pole, led the most laps with 194, and might have won in overtime if not for a slightly overzealous restart from Kyle Busch, who got into Bowman and initiated a chain reaction that also collected Matt Kenseth, who had gotten a clean start and thought he was clear when Bowman shot underneath him. Bowman, who had the best car Sunday, had to settle for sixth, which is still a great result for the youngster, who, for the second time in two days, almost crashed a Chase party.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won a year ago, but 2016 has been a exercise in both frustration and patience for Earnhardt, who has been out since midsummer recovering from concussion symptoms. He’s reported progress, however, and hopes to be back in the No. 88 when NASCAR rolls back to Daytona next spring. Bowman has done an admirable job filling in, and in the meantime, has injected the team with input from a different source.
When… did it all go sideways?
Matt Kenseth’s 2016 season went up in smoke when Michael McDowell hit the wall with just two laps remaining in the race. Kenseth was leading by an easy margin when McDowell’s tire let go. While he led the field to an overtime restart, he didn’t come out of it well at all. Kenseth got a clean start. But his teammate Kyle Busch (who, ironically, said he’d “absolutely” move a teammate for a spot in the final four) gave Alex Bowman a push up inside Kenseth, which might have worked out if Kenseth’s spotter hadn’t just cleared him and Kenseth responded by moving directly into the space already occupied by Bowman. It wasn’t intentional and it’s hard to put the blame on any one person, but none of that matters for Kenseth, who saw the championship shot evaporate and, instead, his teammate move on.
For Martin Truex, Jr., who’s racing for nothing but glory after a stellar season slipped away in the round of 12, and title hopeful Jimmie Johnson, a refresher course in pace car etiquette might be in order after both drivers were penalized for passing the pace car entering pit road. Both drivers lost a lap and saw a top finish slip away as a result. Things went from bad to worse for Johnson, who got caught in a chain reaction crash after Austin Dillon had a power failure on a midrace restart and spent multiple laps in the garage. Truex also finished multiple laps in arrears. For both teams, it was costly, and it’s the kind of error that these veteran drivers should not be making.
Why… did Joey Logano win the race?
Logano had a good car with plenty of speed, but it wasn’t great on long runs and probably wasn’t the best car. But what Logano did has won drivers plenty of races over the years. He put himself in position to capitalize on any mistakes at the front when it counted most. So when Matt Kenseth wrecked on what might otherwise have been the final restart, Logano was there to drive to the win and into the championship race. If he can stalk the lead at Homestead like he did late in the race at Phoenix, he’ll be in a great spot to take his fist Cup title next weekend.
How… does the championship picture look heading to Homestead?
On paper, Carl Edwards is the clear title favorite. Why, when he hasn’t been as consistently impressive this season as perhaps some of his opponents? Because it’s only about one race at Homestead-Miami and the rest of the season doesn’t matter. Edwards, with a 9.2 Homestead average finish and two wins at the track, becomes an easy favorite to outpace the competition.
Jimmie Johnson’s Homestead numbers aren’t nearly as strong as Edwards—he’s never won there and has a 14. 1 average, five positions behind Edwards’ avrage. But what Johnson has going for him is his dogged determination when he smells a victory and his title experience. Six times before he’se come to Homestead and done whatever it took to go home with the trophy that he really wanted. He’s an underdog going in because of his track record, but he’s a bulldog when it comes to getting what he wants.
Joey Logano’s Homestead record isn’t great with a 17.7 average and just one top 5 at the track. Logano hasn’t had great long run speed lately, so if that trend continues, he’ll need a late caution like he saw at Phoenix, and the problem is, you can’t necessarily count on lightning striking twice.
Then there’s Kyle Busch. Busch has just four top-10 finishes in 11 years at Homestead…but one of those was his win last year to seal the title. His average, though is outside the top 20, so it could come down to which Kyle Busch shows up. Busch has been consistent in the Chase this year but has not won. Both he and Edwards looked much stronger a few months ago; Johnson and Logano have picked things up in the later part of the season. So give Edwards the edge, but don’t engrave the trophy just yet.
About the author
Amy is an 18-year veteran NASCAR writer and a five-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found filling in from time to time on The Frontstretch 5 (Wednesdays) and her monthly commentary Holding A Pretty Wheel (Thursdays). A New Hampshire native living in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
Amy just can’t help herself. Bowman started Kenseth’s wreck by spinning his tires on the restart, leaving the inside wide open for Busch, who did what any decent driver would do in trying to pass. But then Bowman made matters worse by diving way too low in the corner trying to block. The spotter ended Kenseth’s day by telling him he was clear. But damn the facts, Bowman gets Amy’s shoutout of the race for wrecking a JGR car and then she blames Busch for it! Typical.
So #18 punting #88 was fair, just as was #20 attempting to block #88 was OK ….AND #20 repeatedly blocking #22 at KS last seasons was all good too, huh? Are there any other cars, other than the #88, that should have pull off, onto the apron, whoa’ed up & waved them by, when the slower, yet more worthy & righteous JGR cars aren’t able to make a clean pass? Btw – De’ Nile is a River in Egypt!
In my eyes, #20’s demise was not on Powdy, Alex or the #20’s spotter. Not in the least. Excuses, excuses & more excuses. That was 100% driver error or perhaps overzealousness. First of all, #20 has been racing at PHO for decades. He fully knows good & well exactly where the spotter blind spots are. I’d say it’s ignorant or delusional to think otherwise. Perhaps both. Plus, by rule, all Cup cars have a mirror on the drivers side “A” post for avoiding precisely this type of incident. It’s is not like #88 was in #20’s blind spot on the outside. If #20 did not see #88 on the inside, in his “A” post mirror, at a minimum, it is #20’s responsibility.
You guys are trying to convince yourself that Matt was blaming others for what happened. Sorry to disappoint, but he took full responsibility immediately after on his radio and in the interview after the race. I know you despise the Toyota’s, but lets not make something out of something that’s not there. He never whined about it and owned it from the beginning. I would think you would be happy that Logano won (being the Ford supporter that you are) and got into the championship. But apparently you feel the need to crap all over the Toyota drivers even when it isn’t warranted. You make some valid points in your posts, but you lose credibility with your comments about Ford vs Toyota drivers.
For my record, as you know I cannot stand Toys or Kenseth. And for the little ankle biters that swear it is because of Logano, you would be wrong. Could not stand the Cheese Head before Logano was even in Cup. Fact!
My point and my only point and I think it goes to what others are saying is….HE AND HIS SPOTTER can fight it out as to who was to blame, it was the 20 TEAM all the way..and the drama created by the people in the booth and media still 2 days later as a matter of fact….involve Bowman and they should not. “Juicy story” whatever. I say Matt ruined Bowman’s excellent adventure!That is my beef, the media bs. regarding the obvious. It was obvious end of discussion. The media always seems to put blame on others where Matty is concerned. It is about the media regardless of who said sorry or what. It is the erroneous reporting, trying to drag other people into the Team 20’s decision.
Good for Alex, great day. Alex did nothing wrong, as usual Kenseth was the architect of his own demise. Is he going to ram Bowman in the future when he (Kenseth) is 11 laps down?
Ha, em …no! Alex did not get fired for & replaced by the brat, like Joey did. The daunting psychological trauma of getting beat by the kid you were hired to replace is what made the brat’s decision making processes at Martinsville unavoidable last season.
Still the most revolting & disgusting act I have ever seen on a race track & prolly will never be surpassed in my eyes. That would have been & normally is a one year (or more) suspension in any other category in the World. If Nascar had an ounce of sporting integrity, it should have been for them too. In my opinion, absence of such, in essence, means they PROMOTE what is paramount to attempted murder.
Karma for Kenseth. Last year he intentionally wrecked Joey and kept him from the chase. This year Karma bit Matt when his spotter announced clear and Matt waited to move down. By then Alex was in the spot and Matt bit the wall, good going Karma. Whiners like Matt always get what’s coming to them. Like when Matt went sneaking up behind Brad last year to try to get him in a choke hold from behind. It didn’t happen.
I was sooo happy to see Joey and Kyle get in the chase instead of Matt or Kevin, sure made my day end with a smile.
Bowman, a native of Tucson, Arizona, drove in select USAC Pro Cup Series races in ’10, before moving to the K&N Pro Series East with X Team Racing in ’11, finishing 6th in driver’s standings & winning Rookie of the Year. He also ran 2 ARCA races in ’11 for Venturini Motorsports, at Madison Int. Speedway & Kansas Speedway, winning both.
He moved full-time to ARCA for ’12 for Cunningham Motorsports as a development driver for Penske Racing, winning 3 races. But then then signed full-time as an NXS driver for the #99 of RAB Racing (Toyota) in ’13, finishing 11th in driver points. Then he went full-time Cup racing with the #23 of BK Racing (Toyota) in ’14 & the #7 of Tommy Baldwin Racing (Chevy) in ’15, but has been a consummate back-marker Cup-wise in these small & underfunded teams, managing only 4 top 20’s across 72 races.
He had no deal for a full-time ride in ’16, but has been running part-time with the #88 of JRM’s (which is Lil E’s NXS team & a Chevy) in the NXS this season, which would seem to amount to filling in when Jr doesn’t run himself, or run an exhibitionist in the NXS #88 car. He has also been in Lil E’s HMS #88 Cup car, obviously, with 8 & 9 entrees so far in ’16, respectively.
So, he seems to be one that got away from Penske & somewhat in limbo, but it would seem something will pop-up out of the wood work, given his outstanding run at PHO recently. Seems like a fine youngster & a decent prospect. I wish him all the best.
First, I don’t get Powty shouldering blame for the #20’s wreck. I think he’s been smoking & ought’a get “p” tested. And let’s not blame Bowman in the lest! He was just the monkey in the middle & did an admirable job with this, & move over, all weekend! #18 attempted to punt the #88 on the front stretch. Miraculously #88 gathered it up & was already up against the inside wall, in total control, when #20 elected to drive across his nose. End of Story!
That’s not on Powdy, Alex or the #20’s spotter. That is 100% driver error or perhaps overzealousness. First of all, #20 has been racing at PHO for decades. He fully knows good & well exactly where the spotter blind spots are. To think otherwise is delusional. Plus, all Cup cars have a mirror on the drivers side “A” post for avoiding precisely this type of incident. If he did not see #88, at a minimum, it is his responsibility. I suspect he knew full well #88 was inside & did not want to give up his hopes of “chase” advancement & is willing to wreck people to keep his pipe dream alive. Sound like familiar ground for the #20? The little “A” pillar mirror worked well for him last season whilst blocking the #22 at KS, no?
So, I’m here to tell ya’ that’s all BS & I’m not buying any of it! Excuses …excuses! De’ Nile is a river in Egypt & Chapter One in Ham-bone’s illustrious “Yota JGR Driver’s Code” manual! #20 tried to bash his way to “chase” advancement last season with #22 & attempted the same with #88 at Pho this season.
Other than that, another awesome P8 run by Ryan Blaney in the #21 Wood Brothers Racing & Motorcraft and Quick Lane Racing Ford. Of which, highlights one of many flaws of the “chase” format gimmick. This was another phenomenal run & outstanding effort by this rookie driver & veteran crew, yet this top 10 effort, their 8th of the season, was NEVER mentioned, not ONCE by the NBC sensationalists all day, smh. Nascar’s immense media battalion & corporate media in general is failing the sport by serving up extraneous helpings of poster-children & has-been sensationalism, whist being woefully oblivious to supreme efforts by the likes of a young charger Ryan Blaney & WBR, Cup’s most tenured team.
Go Team Penske!