DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott came into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway in the same metaphorical boat. They both needed a win to make the driver playoffs.
The duo made a strong push at the victory, but in the end, Elliott finished fourth and Bowman came home sixth. Good runs at Daytona, but unfortunately, not enough to get either into the driver playoffs. Both saw their consecutive playoff appearances streaks end at seven for Elliott and five for Bowman.
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"I knew coming into the weekend that this was going to be a tall order," Elliott said. “It’s a tall order every week but coming down here, you just don’t know what you are going to get. There’s just so many things out of your control. I thought we did a good job with what we did tonight and the effort we put in throughout the week. I thought we executed pretty dang well to be honest with you, but just came up a little short."
It was a glass-half-full situation for Elliott, who was able to get the No. 9 team into the owner championship. That was thanks to not just the 27-year-old driver, but also the team’s work while he missed time due to a fractured tibia in the spring.
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"Glad the car got in," Elliott said. "That’s a big deal and testament to Alan and our team for just continuing to fight and whatnot while I was gone. There is a lot of opportunity on that side of things and it is a really big deal. Would like to go and make some noise on that front.
"I look at these next 10 weeks as an opportunity to get better and try to be prepared well for next year. I hate the way that it's worked out, but I can’t change it now. We’ve been trying to fight through it and we came up short. That’s life sometimes. I do think we will be better for this on the other end."
For Bowman, the sixth-place run marked his second top-six finish in three weeks. Before suffering a fractured vertebra in April, the driver of the No. 48 started the season strong with new crew chief Blake Harris. In the opening seven races, he notched three top-five finishes and six top-10s and was leading the point standings for a stretch.
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After missing three points-paying races and returning at the Coca-Cola 600, the No. 48 team had a tough summer as something would always seem to go wrong when the team was putting forth a good race. A fifth-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course broke a 13-race drought of not finishing in the top 10.
"It’s good to run well," Bowman said. "Needed to be five spots better.
" …We’ve shown what we are capable of at the beginning of the season before I got hurt and since then, we really haven’t. Need to get back to that. That is the biggest goal for the next 10 weeks and this is a good start."
The 30-year-old driver plans to approach the closing 10-race stretch as his own playoffs.
"Act like we are in it," Bowman said of his mentality to finishing the season. "You just have to continue to go execute. Act like we are in it (the playoffs) and see what happens."