(MOORESVILLE, N.C. - August 28, 2012) - Alex Bowman returned to Madison International Speedway as the reigning race champion.
Bowman won at the speedway in 2011 in his first ARCA Racing Series attempt. He had circled the August 26th date on the ARCA schedule as one track that he was excited to revisit. But, then Bowman couldn’t say that he would be revisiting many of the tracks on the diversified Series schedule---he had only been to three. Bowman ran two ARCA Racing Series races last season, Madison and Kansas Speedway, winning both of them. Those two, plus one other track, Iowa, were the only tracks that Bowman had ever raced on. He knew when he began his season with Cunningham Motorsports that he would have to maintain a very steep learning curve when his team unloaded his #22 Dodge at each of the Series 18 race tracks. As he headed into the last four races of the season, Bowman found himself as the reigning champion in three of those races.
Bowman arrived in Madison, Wisconsin driving his favorite car, car #81. Each time that Bowman had driven #81 this season, he finished the race in victory lane. After testing two cars at Motor Mile earlier in the week, Bowman and crew chief, Paul Andrews chose to bring the Salem, Winchester and Iowa winning car.
In the two 45 minute practice sessions, Bowman and Andrews threw a variety of changes at the Dodge, but couldn’t find speed higher than the 8th quickest. In qualifying, Bowman once again, for the fifth time this season, proved what he and his team could do by putting the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dodge on the pole for the second week in a row, with a new track record. After getting his award, the pole sitter said, “Our St. Jude’s/Cunningham Motorsports Dodge definitely is better than the speed charts in practice showed. We have a great car for the race. I told my guys, during practice, that this car is better than the one I won with here last year.”
As soon as the green flag dropped, Bowman took the point. Throughout the first 54 laps Bowman wiggled his way through lapped traffic, until Brennan Poole worked his way around the #22 Dodge. As Bowman dropped another position to third, the second caution flew for a spin in turn 4. Crew chief Paul Andrews brought Bowman into the pits after Alex told Andrews that the car was tight and that he was losing brakes. During the pit stop for right side tires and fuel, Bowman pulled out of the pits when the Dodge dropped off of the jack. In the ensuing confusion, a tire got loose in the pit area and Bowman was penalized one lap. As the green returned to the track on lap 80, Bowman’s focus became his quest to get back on the lead lap. On lap 132, the caution flag came out. During this yellow, Andrews brought the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Dodge in for four tires and a track bar adjustment.
Bowman lined up inside the leader for the restart on lap 137 in 11th, the first car one lap down. As quickly as the green flag flew, Bowman cleared the leader and was once again on the lead lap. As quickly as Bowman got back on the lead lap, caution returned to the track. After telling Andrews, “the car feels really good,” Bowman lined up for the restart on lap 142 in 10th, at the tail end of the lead lap cars. As the race restarted, Bowman began his speedy forward movement. Five laps after the restart, he had picked up 3 spots, to 7th; 6th on lap 153 and back into the top 5 by lap 155. On lap 176 he grabbed 4th. With 13 laps remaining in the scheduled 200 lap event and Bowman still in 4th, a spin in turn 4 brought the caution out—setting up an eight lap shootout. On lap 198 the caution flag flew again, with Bowman in 3rd. With the race in overtime, green flag conditions returned to the track. Bowman tucked under the second place Frank Kimmel and pulled to a 2 car length lead on the back stretch. Once again, yellow flew as Kimmel got spun. The final restart occurred on lap 208 when the green and white flags were shown with Bowman in second. The checkered flew without Bowman getting a chance to contend for the victory on the last lap, as Chris Buescher pulled to an easy lead.
His 2nd place finish helped Bowman tighten up the championship battle. While he remains 4th, he is 195 points behind Madison winner and points leader, Buescher and 50 points behind 3rd place. Bowman commented, “To come back from a lap down and pass every car on the race track but one and run second definitely shows how good of a car we had. I feel like we definitely could’ve won, if it hadn’t been for the pit road incident. We will move on and get a win at Du Quoin.”
Next on the schedule for Bowman and the Cunningham team is the second dirt race of the season. After finishing 2nd in his first dirt track ARCA experience a few weeks ago at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Bowman had more confidence in his chances at DuQuoin. Anxious to try to improve his finish by one spot Bowman said, “I am really looking forward to running our second dirt race. I had the most fun that I have had in a stock car two weeks ago in Springfield (IL). I am ready to tackle the dirt again.” The Southern Illinois 100 presented by Federated Car Care at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds is a one day event on Labor Day, Monday, September 3, with the lone practice from 10:00-11:00am EST. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell is scheduled for 12:00pm, followed by the 100 lap race at 2:00. All on-track events will be covered on twitter @cunningham_race.
Follow Bowman on twitter @AlexBRacing