KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Alex Bowman should have earned his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.
But experience challenging for wins makes a difference, and Bowman can either look at his second-place finish Saturday night as being the first loser or as a lesson that sometimes in sports, the adage of having to lose one (or more) before winning applies.
A Bowman mistake opened the door for Brad Keselowski to get by and lead the final 11 laps of the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway, ruining what would have been a career day for Bowman and a possible bench mark moment for Chevrolet amid 15 months of frustration.
The 25-year-old couldn’t hide his disappointment after a failed attempt while leading where he chose to run the middle lane, which upset the handling of Bowman’s car and forced him to lift off the throttle.
“I’m pretty dang frustrated with myself,” said Bowman, who has 129 Cup Series starts. “There’s no way around that. That was a bad mistake.”
Alex Bowman, front, finished second for the third consecutive race. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)
Bowman’s win should eventually come if he leads laps as he did for 63 circuits Saturday night. It’s almost like he’s being teased as he has finished second in three consecutive events, potentially making him the first Cup driver ever to do that before earning a victory.
His fellow Chevrolet drivers appeared to share mixed feelings after they filled seven of the top-10 spots at Kansas. Chevrolet has won one race of the 13 this year as Chase Elliott captured the win at unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway. Elliott owns the four Chevrolet wins over the last 47 races since Austin Dillon opened the 2018 season with the Daytona 500 triumph.
“It was nice running top-5,” said Elliott, who led 45 laps at Kansas and finished fourth. “I hate to have been leading the laps that we did and not finish it off, but what do you do? It was unfortunate.”
Hendrick teammates Bowman and Elliott did enjoy top-five days for the third consecutive race. Jimmie Johnson finished sixth, giving Hendrick three top-six cars for the first time since Chevrolet switched to its new Camaro body style in 2018.
“We’re still missing a chunk of speed,” Johnson said. “There’s a pretty good gap from our car to even our own teammates’ cars. We’re missing something, and we just need to get on top of it.”
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Johnson possibly has had the most mercurial performance this year, looking strong one weekend and then many others when he hasn’t maintained consistent speed throughout practice, qualifying and the race.
“I’m trying to stay patient,” Johnson said. “The year is flying by. We have to get to work. We have to be winning races and finishing higher in the points if we’re going to have a shot at the championship.”
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson were seventh and eighth, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick (in his second career Cup start) came in ninth and JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher placed 10th as he posted his second top-10 of the season, matching the number he had all of last year.
Larson, who has six career wins but saw his winless streak extend to 58 races, finally has posted back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time this year.
“The Hendrick guys are really close to winning right now,” Larson said. “I don’t feel like I’m close to winning yet. I feel like I’ve had eighth- to 12th-place speed all year long. … We still have a lot of room to improve.”
As most Chevrolet drivers continue to get shut out from victory lane, Keselowski won for the third time this year and the fourth for a Ford. Toyota has seven wins divided among Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
The Chevrolets, though, have made enough noise that they can’t be dismissed as easily as they could for much of 2018 and the start of 2019.
“The 88 (of Bowman) the last two weeks has looked very, very strong,” Keselowski said. “I think they’re definitely starting to hit their stride for sure, and we can’t let our guard down.”
Bob Pockrass is a Fox Sports NASCAR reporter. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.
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