Alex Bowman had a car good enough to likely finish in the top 15 in last Saturday night’s race at the Kentucky Speedway. Unfortunately, he blew a right fron tire and crashed in Turn 4 as a result. He’d finish last in 40th place due to the crash. The significance of that is that Bowman held onto the 16th and final playoff spot heading into last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in the Bluegrass State. His crash opened the door for someone like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to close the gap for that last spot.
Stenhouse couldn’t do it. He’d finish a disappointing 26th. The gap between Bowman and Stenhouse though is only nine with only seven races to go in the regular season. So, the battle between these two for that final spot is going to be intense.
But, they did open the door for another driver who did capitalize on both of their misfortunes in Paul Menard. The Wood Brothers Racing driver scored stage points in each of the two stages in Kentucky and brought his No. 21 Ford home 11th. He’s now only 23 points behind Bowman for that last spot.
With Chase Elliott in 15th (+51), he’s likely fine was long as he finishes in the top 15. So, that in turn leaves an good battle between Bowman, Stenhouse and Menard in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire.
Bowman, does have three top 10 finishes over his last four starts on the season but hasn’t scored a top five run since mid April at Bristol. He hasn’t raced for Hendrick before at New Hampshire so he has an opportunity to get another top 15 at the very least.
Stenhouse, has four top 15 finishes in his last five New Hampshire starts but hasn’t came away with a top 15 result since Pocono in early June. From Bristol to Pocono, Stenhouse had six top 15’s in a seven race span. But, he’s since struggled with results of 29th, 18th, 16th, 17th and 26th respectively.
Menard, has the best opportunity. He’s never scored a top 10 before in New Hampshire but enters with six top 15 finishes over his last eight starts on the season. He has a chance to close the gap even more which makes this battle for the final spot intense.