CONCORD, N.C. -- Before Alex Bowman earned his first victory of the season at Richmond Raceway in April, the organization hadn’t won at the track since Jimmie Johnson rolled into victory lane in 2008.
Now the No. 48 team is looking to complete a rare sweep at “America’s Premiere Short Track” this weekend when the NASCAR Cup Series field returns for the second race of the 2021 playoffs. While Bowman has a boost of confidence heading back to Richmond, he acknowledged how tough the track is one of the toughest on the Cup circuit.
“For a long time, I tried to make myself do things differently there than was natural to me, and I didn’t have any success with that,” Bowman said.
Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives took a different strategy for the spring race, which saw Bowman lead the final 10 laps after a nearly perfect restart and cross the finish line first. It was the first of Bowman’s three regular-season wins, which solidified his position in the playoffs.
“Greg and I just went outside of the box and we were able to come up with something that, obviously, worked really well for the last race there and we were able to win,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can duplicate that and have similar success this next race there. I’m excited to get back.”
The 28-year-old driver is having his best Cup Series season to date. Aside from his three victories, Bowman has posted six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s while receiving a multiyear contract extension from Hendrick Motorsports. Ives wants to add on to the No. 48 team’s historic legacy with a Richmond sweep but knows he simply can’t duplicate the April race.
“There’s parts of that race we needed to do better; it wasn’t a clean, flawless race,” Ives said. “Looking at that tire bouncing (that got away), not having a consistent pit stop, having restarts like he did on that last one. There’s a lot of things we can clean up throughout the whole race to make it an even better race for us before we go back.”
Even though it wasn’t the crisp race Ives wanted, Ives added that Bowman and the No. 48 crew deserved the win for their patience, strategy and talent. Because of this, Ives said Richmond is the track where he wants to win the most during the Round of 16.
“To be able to go back-to-back there would be great (and) show it wasn’t a fluke that we won that race,” he said. “We did have a fast car and Hendrick Motorsports can win there again.”
The playoff event at Richmond Raceway will kick off Saturday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.