Alex Bowman returns to Phoenix for first time since 2016 wreck

Alex Bowman climbs in his car during a practice session for the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

The last time Alex Bowman drove a Cup Series car at Phoenix he was in contention for the win late in the race.

And then he was involved in a moment that changed the playoffs.

Bowman, subbing for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., started on the inside of Matt Kenseth on a restart with two laps to go. Kenseth was in the final four of the playoffs with a win.

Bowman blocked Kyle Busch behind him and took a very low line into turn 1. Kenseth moved down as Bowman tried to make the corner. Kenseth wasn’t clear.

(via NBC)

Joey Logano won the race and made it to the final four along with Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and eventual champion Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth was out.

Crazily enough, Bowman wasn’t asked about that 2016 race during his press conference on Friday.

“Pretty successful here, wish we could close races a little better here,” Bowman said. “We have run really well here in the Xfinity Series and in the Cup Series. Just never been able to close one off.”

Really well is a good summation of that 2016 race; at least until the crash. Bowman ultimately finished sixth but led 194 of the race’s 324 laps. Now the Arizona native is back at the track in the No. 88 that’s all his.

After sitting out the 2017 Cup Series season and serving as Hendrick Motorsports’ test driver, Bowman took over for Earnhardt Jr. following Junior’s retirement.

Bowman is 17th in the standings through the first three races of the season, a spot where he said he doesn’t really want to be.

“It hasn’t been a great start for us,” Bowman said. “I think we unloaded at Atlanta and quickly realized that we have a lot of work to do. We’ve got the best guys in the business back at the shop working hard.  We made progress last week. We were definitely better last week. We didn’t get the finish that we would have hoped for, but we are making progress.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.