Alex Bow­man on run of 2nd-place fin­ishes in NASCAR Cup Se­ries

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Alex Bow­man quite lit­er­ally had his first NASCAR Cup Se­ries vic­tory in his sights, tick­ing off the laps in his No.

88 Chevro­let at the front of the pack at Kansas Speed­way.

Too bad Brad Ke­selowski was in his rearview mir­ror.

The 26-year-old Bow­man was passed by the former se­ries cham­pion with seven laps to go, then had noth­ing left for Ke­selowski dur­ing a green-white-check­ered fin­ish Satur­day night. That left Bow­man to rue his third con­sec­u­tive sec­ond-place fin­ish, the best yet most dis­ap­point­ing stretch of his young career.

“Wish we were stand­ing here with three wins in a row and things could have gone dif­fer­ent and that could be the case,” Bow­man said after­ward, “but we’ll keep digging next week.”

Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports bet big on Bow­man when it chose him to re­place the hugely pop­u­lar Dale Earn­hardt Jr. upon Earn­hardt’s re­tire­ment. Bow­man had done well fill­ing in for Earn­hardt while he was side­lined by con­cus­sions, so his rel­a­tively mod­est success in the Xfin­ity Se­ries didn’t give anyone pause.

Star­dom seemed all but cer­tain when he qual­i­fied on the pole for last year’s Day­tona 500.

But start­ing first and fin­ish­ing first are two en­tirely dif­fer­ent things, and the lat­ter has been hard to achieve. Bow­man has made

129 career starts in NASCAR’s top se­ries and has fin­ished at least one time in ev­ery po­si­tion but the one that mat­ters the most.

“You fin­ish sec­ond three weeks in a row, you’re go­ing to win a race,” said Ke­selowski, who knows some­thing about work­ing one’s way through the ranks. “He’s got a lot to be proud of. He’s do­ing all the right things. They have the speed and all those things, and that’s cer­tainly im­pres­sive.”

If noth­ing else, the nearmisses the past few weeks have been valu­able learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Bow­man had the dom­i­nant car for long stretches on Satur­day night, leading three times for 63 laps and of­ten pulling away from the field. But the track changed con­sid­er­ably as the night wore on and the tem­per­a­tures cooled, and Ke­selowski and third-place fin­isher Erik Jones slowly made up ground.

Bow­man was rac­ing side by side with Hen­drick team­mate Chase El­liott with 22 laps to go when Ricky Sten­house Jr. swung by and passed both of them. Bow­man showed his con­fi­dence and met­tle by pass­ing him back to take sec­ond, and Sten­house quickly fell off the pace of the lead­ers.

Bow­man was still leading when Ke­selowski pulled even with seven laps to go. And when the two of them hit lapped traf­fic, it was the more ex­pe­ri­enced Ke­selowski who knifed his way to the front.

“Just made some bad de­ci­sion and never re­ally should have given the 2 car a chance at it,” Bow­man said. “Just made some bad calls there through lap traf­fic and got tied off, had to lift, and then the 2 car was able to drive around us.”

From be­hind the wind­shield, Ke­selowski didn’t see Bow­man make any big mis­takes.

“I had a lit­tle run in Turn 1, he moved down to cover it and when he did he was just slightly out of bal­ance and I was able to pounce,” he said. “It feels a lit­tle like watch­ing a foot­ball game and watch­ing a corner ver­sus wide re­ceiver, and watch­ing them work each other. Just try­ing to get him off of bal­ance and cut and go the other di­rec­tion and get away from him, and that’s what we were able to do.”

It was nev­er­the­less a strong run not only for Bow­man but all of Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports, which has strug­gled to reach vic­tory lane this sea­son. El­liott has the team’s last four vic­to­ries go­ing back 30 races, in­clud­ing its only win this sea­son at Tal­ladega.

He wound up fourth de­spite all kinds of trou­ble — El­liott’s car twice failed in­spec­tion Satur­day, re­sult­ing in the loss of his car chief and forc­ing him to start from the back. Jim­mie John­son man­aged to fin­ish sixth de­spite never chal­leng­ing for the top five un­til the fi­nal few laps.

“It’s great to be rac­ing a team­mate for the lead. I think that’s signs of progress,” El­liott said of his side-by-side ses­sion with Bow­man down the stretch. “Hate to give it away to some­body else, he and I were pac­ing it there at the end. But it hap­pens. We’ll just work harder.”

Sean Gard­ner / Getty Images

Alex Bow­man waves to fans dur­ing the pre-race cer­e­monies of the Mon­ster Energy NASCAR Cup Se­ries Dig­i­tal Ally 400 at Kansas Speed­way on Satur­day.

Colin E. Bra­ley / As­so­ci­ated Press

Kyle Busch (18) drives in front of Alex Bow­man (88) at Kansas Speed­way in Kansas City, Kan., Satur­day.

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