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CONCORD, N.C. – Prior to Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Alex Bowman spoke highly of the “drastic improvements” the No. 88 team has made since the beginning of the season.

And in yesterday’s opening playoff race, Bowman continued to see that progress on the track.

“That is the most speed we have had on a 1.5-mile (track) all year,” he said after the race.  “I was running 50 percent, maybe 60 percent that first run towards the end and just mowing guys down.”

Bowman, who currently ranks 12th in the playoff standings, is now six points above the cutoff line. He earned eight extra points with a third-place finish in Stage 1 and picked up another top-10 stage finish in Stage 2, picking up two more points with a ninth-place finish.

The driver of the No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 continued to run inside the top 10 for most of the final stage, running as high as seventh with fewer than 25 laps to go.

“Our long-run speed was so good,” he said. “We were too tight to restart, but our long-run speed was really good. So, that is super encouraging, unfortunately we don’t have another 1.5-mile (track) for a while, but we can turn it around at Richmond, too.”

During a restart in the closing laps, Bowman’s progress was slowed when he suffered a flat tire after making contact with a competitor.

“It looked like they got jumbled up in front of us,” Bowman said of the incident. “I got jumbled up when the No. 31 kind of slid up in front of us. I was loose off and cars kind of backed up into us at the same time. So, hard racing happened to us at the end, but we should have been pretty far in front of that and not in that position to being with.”

After a trip to pit road, Bowman was able to return to the track and be continued to battle in the final laps to finish the race in 19th.   

Though disappointed in the end result, Bowman continues to believe in the No. 88 team’s playoff chances moving forward after a strong performance Sunday.

“We ran better than I really expected coming here,” the driver said. “So, I think that gives me some optimism going forward, just super frustrated.”