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Alex Bowman, William Byron have very different days at Dover

Alex Bowman says that the No. 88 struggled during the short runs but made up for it during the longer runs after a third-place result at Dover, which positions him seventh in the playoff standings before Talladega.

A week after a turbulent race on the Charlotte Roval ended with a second-place finish, Alex Bowman was relieved to have a mostly “clean day” at Dover International Speedway and finish third to open the second round of the playoffs.

But early on, the Hendrick Motorsports driver was prepared for the worst.

“We got together with (Ryan Blaney) off of (Turn) 2 early and I was like ‘Oh, not again,’” Bowman said after the race. “Glad he saved it. Just two cars going for one spot on the race track. Nothing happened from there. Had a clean day, the only really issue we had was that one pit stop (on Lap 123). Aside from that one pit stop (where his car fell off the jack and cost him two spots), my guys are probably the fastest guys on pit road. I’ll take it for how good they are.”

Bowman exits Sunday’s race 17 points up on teammate William Byron, who holds the final transfer spot to the third round. Bowman is seventh in the standings. Byron is eighth.

Bowman’s Dover run continued his playoff surge. He has finished in the top six in three of the first four playoff races.

“I’ll take it after last week,” Bowman said. “I’m really proud of my race team and everybody for keeping their heads on straight. We definitely executed pretty well. There were a couple things we can clean up for sure, though.”

Meanwhile, Byron had a hiccup on pit road that “ruined our day” and relegated him to a 13th-place finish.

Byron, in his first Cup playoffs, had a potential top-five car, but when he pitted from sixth place under green on Lap 185, he was caught speeding as he exited pit road. He had the second stall before the pit exit.

“We just miscalculated the pit exit there,” Byron said. “We thought, the team and me, was convinced we could just go straight out and have no issues. ... I got a really good launch out of the pit box, probably a little too good. I was kind of worried about it because I beat (Jimmie Johnson) pretty good off pit road and it nicked us for sure.

“Just a miscalculation. Probably won’t choose that pit box again for that reason. It really kind of ruined our day, but at least we got some decent stuff out of it.”

Byron, who finished outside top 10 for the second time in the playoffs, was sure if he kept his track position “we could have finished in the top five. We drove back up to 10th place, which is (where) Clint Bowyer (finished) and we couldn’t really do anything with that. Then we tried to stay out long to try to catch a yellow. We just could never get back what we lost under green.”