CONCORD, N.C. – Despite the “Big One” taking over the final lap at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Hendrick Motorsports still notched two top-10 finishes after Alex Bowman crossed the finish line eighth and Chase Elliott placed ninth in the final race of the regular season.
Bowman especially was on the edge of his seat after he was involved in three incidences on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. He was able to escape mostly unscathed from the massive accident on the final lap and credited his pit and road crew to make sure his No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE could cross the finish line.
“At least we made it to the end there,” Bowman joked. “We had a pretty solid car until we got that left-front damage. It was just kind of slow after that, but the guys did a good job trying to fix it up on pit road. We had a good Ally Camaro.”
Elliott was out front in the final few laps when his car got loose and hit the wall. He was shuffled back several spots and the overtime caution was brought out after other members of the field were involved in the accident. It turned out to be a small blessing since Elliott was able to avoid the final massive accident on lap 165.
“I thought we were probably better than we’ve ever been down here,” Elliott said. “Just a lot of ability in our car to do the things that we’ve been asking of it for a few years. So, we’re really excited about that.
“I hate to crash there. It’s so tough when you get in those situations where you have the lead and trying to hold it. You have big runs coming and it’s just like, where do you draw the line. I feel like you’ve got to be pretty aggressive or you’re going to get taken advantage of. That’s just the style of racing.”
Despite the chaotic finish, the top-10 results provide a little boost for the Hendrick Motorsports teammates heading into the playoffs. The drivers and teams will switch gears to focus on the 1.366-mile track at Darlington Raceway, the location of the first playoff race this season.
Bowman especially is looking forward to the transition after he finished sixth in the playoffs last year, the highest he’s ever placed in the postseason.
“Last year, we were miserable all summer and then showed up in the playoffs and were really strong each and every week,” Bowman said. “I’m not worried about it. I know we’re going to be good every week. Our Ally Camaro is going to be fast. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the guys have been doing a really good job. (I’m) confident going into a lot of good racetracks for us and am excited to get going.”