Alex Bowman walks down pit road at Kansas.
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Alex Bowman eager to shake off summer struggles with strong playoff push

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Alex Bowman crossed the finish line last weekend at Darlington Raceway, it was only his second top-10 finish in a strenuous 13-race stretch. As the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continues Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Bowman is hoping his summer struggles are finally in the rear-view mirror.

Bowman came out of the gates with an early statement win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, securing another playoff berth and his fourth consecutive season with a trip to Victory Lane. But when June began, the No. 48 team struggled to find speed and consistency almost every week.

“It hasn’t been great,” Bowman said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “The summer was pretty rough on us. We started the year pretty decent and pretty consistent and then kinda fell apart through the summer. But I think we’re kinda back to a good place now and I think we have a shot at making some noise the next nine weeks.”

CUP SERIES: Weekend schedule | Playoff standings

Though they entered the playoffs as the 15th seed, the strong showing at Darlington moved Bowman into 10th in the current standings. And with just one finish outside the top 11 in Bowman’s last eight races at Kansas, the No. 48 wheelman is confident that they have what it takes to make a strong playoff run.

“High-level motivation, I think, is the strongest part of our program,” Bowman said. “We’re all working super hard but I think our mile-and-a-half stuff is really good coming here particularly. This is one of my best race tracks, so really looking forward to it.”

Success started early this weekend for Bowman, running ninth in Saturday’s practice session and improving to third during Busch Light Qualifying — his best qualifying effort since the Daytona 500.

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After the session, the change in his tone was noticeably more optimistic and confident.

“I think everywhere we go, we have a shot,” said Bowman. “But yeah, our intermediate program is really good and I love Kansas. It’s definitely one of my favorite places.”

Bowman rolls off on the second row in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) looking to improve on his ninth-place finish at Kansas earlier this season.