KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sunday at Kansas Speedway brought the end of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for William Byron and Alex Bowman.
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates were competing in the finale of the Round of 12, but did not join Chase Elliott in advancing to the Round of 8 at the conclusion of the race.
All three drivers entered the event outside of the top eight drivers in the standings. Bowman was 18 points behind the cut-off line, Elliott was 22 points back and Byron was 27 points back.
A runner-up finish by Elliott combined with a second-place finish in Stage 1 and a fifth-place Stage 2 finish was enough to allow him to move on via points.
Byron took the checkered flag in fifth, his fourth Cup Series top-five finish and first at a 1.5-mile track, but it was not enough to advance. Still, he left the event proud of what the No. 24 team accomplished in the driver’s first career Cup Series playoffs appearance.
“It sucks that it kind of came down to that and we had to win this week, but we knew that’s what our goal was,” he said. “We went out there and got aggressive with everything we did and our car was fast right off the bat. I think we went from 25th to eighth in the first stage. So, overall a good day to be happy about, but it’s a bummer not to advance. We’ll just go on and try to compete for wins.”
Bowman’s No. 88 Nationwide AgriBusiness Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 suffered damage early in Sunday’s race after contact with the wall, and the team battled all afternoon long to recover for an 11th-place finish. But, like Byron, it was not quite enough to move on.
“Get the left rear torn off it five laps in, basically got to drive a wrecked race car for the rest of the day,” Bowman explained. “We did all we could to continue to fix it, or attempt to, but just didn’t quite get it all the way there. We rebounded to 11th, probably could’ve been somewhere in the top 10 there at the end, that last restart didn’t really go our way, but it obviously could’ve been worse. Bummed with that. For those five laps, I thought we were going forward in a hurry and were going to have a really good race car, but hard to say coulda woulda shoulda at that point.”
Still, like his teammate, he was proud of the No. 88 team’s effort as the group made the playoffs for the second consecutive season and advanced to the second round.
As the top eight drivers advanced, Byron finished the round 10th in the standings, with Bowman in 11th.
Looking ahead, both drivers want to make some noise in the final four races of the season.
“We’ve got a couple good places for us, places we need to improve on, just need to go have some good, solid weeks,” Bowman said, noting that he’s excited to head to his hometown track of ISM Raceway.
Being able to compete among the drivers contending for a championship was “a lot of fun,” Byron said, and he’ll be looking for even more in 2020.
“This year, being a part of it, the cars get faster, everyone does a little bit better job and you have to kind of step up as a driver,” he said. “Just kind of look back at this round and some of the mishaps and things that happened and try to learn that for next year.”