FOX NASCAR Insider
Alex Bowman is in the fight of his playoff life as he sits 20th in the standings, 42 points behind the current cutoff with six races left in the regular season.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver knows he shouldn’t be in this position. But he broke his back racing a sprint car, forcing him to miss three points races (and the all-star race), plus his team had a 60-point penalty for a body modification at Richmond.
Bowman had six top-10s in his first seven starts this year but now has had 10 consecutive finishes outside the top-10.
Prior to the race at New Hampshire, Bowman spoke with FOX Sports about this season and a little bit about his career, which included him once finding out he was fired from Tommy Baldwin Racing by reading about it on Twitter. It was after that blow that threatened his racing future when Bowman became a simulator driver for Hendrick Motorsports, eventually leading to his full-time ride with the elite Hendrick organization.
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The conversation with Bowman, who also is known for his love of dogs, has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve got Pocono and Richmond coming up, both tracks that you’ve won at in your career. How do you feel about those and your chances to win to try to get into the playoffs?
Honestly, anywhere we go with Hendrick Motorsports, you feel like you have a chance to win. But being two of my better racetracks — which is crazy to think about as bad as I was at Richmond for so long — I’m excited to go to those places. I feel like even though we crashed and didn’t finish where we needed to, Atlanta (a couple races ago) was a step in the right direction as far as we ran strong all day. We were putting a good race together. So if we can just get back to that, get back to running how we should, I think we have a shot to win anywhere we go.
Are you stressed out over the playoffs and points and winning to get into the playoffs? Or is that just life as a race-car driver?
It’s life as a race-car driver when you have a 60-point penalty, and you missed four races. But that’s the situation we’re in. Obviously, we were in a really good spot before all that stuff happened, and we’re not now. We’ve just got to do our best to overcome it. I feel like some of that I had nothing to do with, and the other part of it, I had a ton to do with it. We’ve just got to do our best to make up for it.
What is tougher — breaking your back or learning that you’re fired on Twitter?
That’s a good question. Learning that I got fired on Twitter was the best thing that ever happened to me, it just didn’t feel like it in the moment. I don’t know that that’s ever going to be the case as far as breaking my back. So probably breaking my back, laying in the hospital in the middle of Iowa on your 30th birthday — that whole time frame of my life was not the most fun. But that’s part of life, and I’m definitely better from it.
Alex Bowman reveals what was worse: breaking his back or learning he was fired on Twitter.
Your whole career is ups and downs. So do you feel like you’ve been prepared to handle this year?
Certainly, I’ve been prepared to handle the downs — I’ve handled a lot of those. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Not everything’s easy, and I’ve kind of been dealt a s—ty hand this year. I’m just trying to do the right things and be prepared each and every week and continue pushing through it. As rough as this year’s been, I’ve been through way worse. So I’ll survive.
It seemed like you guys were running strong at the start of the year, but maybe not as strong since you’ve come back. How much of that do you put on the fact that you were out, and how much is it the nature of the roller coaster of garage and normal performance?
It’s probably a little bit of both. Sitting out of a race car for four weeks while everybody’s in the race car getting better is definitely not a good thing. You definitely fall behind a little bit there. But the garage, the ebbs and flows of it, I don’t think as a company, we are where we were when we started the year. Obviously, we were super strong each and every week then. Not that we’re not strong right now, I just feel like other guys have definitely gotten stronger. We’re all working hard at it.
How’s the transition to new crew chief Blake Harris been after Greg Ives left following the 2022 season (although Ives filled in for Harris when Harris was suspended)?
I love working with Blake. It’s been a lot of fun. Obviously, we got to back-to-back it with Greg there in the middle of the year. I will always appreciate that relationship I have with Greg, and being able to pull him up when we needed was really helpful for sure. As far as working with Blake goes, it’s been really good. He definitely pushes me where I need it, and I appreciate that. The hand that we’ve been dealt has made it look bad here recently, but I think we’re doing really well together.
Alex Bowman explains the change in his performance throughout the season.
You own a sprint-car racing team that you started when you wanted to race the Chili Bowl midget nationals. What’s it like to have a team and how does Alex Bowman Racing fit into your life when you aren’t racing that car?
That has changed massively. I built that team, honestly, from the ground up. The first winged sprint car we had, I built myself. When I was driving, obviously I was there every day, and everything was kind of built around me and my schedule. And now that I’m not driving, it’s vastly different. I feel like I’ve definitely detached a little bit from it, but those guys have been doing a really good job.
Do you view yourself as a car owner in sprint cars for a long time?
I don’t know in what capacity. I’m not going to say we’re going to run the (World of) Outlaws tour next year by any means. I’ll have race cars for a long time, that’s never going away. The Chili Bowl stuff is probably more like my side of that program. I really enjoy the midget stuff a lot. I don’t see it going anywhere.
Binge-watching when you have a broken back, what are your recommendations?
I can’t even remember honestly. … I feel like whenever anybody asks you what you’re watching, you can’t think of it. It’s like, “What’s your favorite movie?” And then you’re like, “I have no idea.”
When you were out and you were watching races, did you pick up on anything that you don’t usually see? Was there any benefit?
I went to Darlington and hung out on the pit box. So having that perspective, I think, was helpful. But other than that, I kind of just watched and talked s— on Twitter. So I think that came out of extreme boredom. It wasn’t much fun by any means.
“I think we have a shot to win anywhere we go,” Alex Bowman said about upcoming races at Pocono and Richmond.
The two questions we always ask you here to wrap this up. First, how’s your back?
Feels like I broke it two-and-a-half months ago.
How would you know since you never have broken your back. How do you know what it should feel like now?
I’m 30. So I feel like my back should hurt a little bit, but it probably hurts a little bit more than it should.
And the second question is how are your dogs?
They’re good. Roscoe is getting old, but he’s still an asshole. And Finn is just living life.
Why is Roscoe an ass?
If you ever met him, you’d understand. Love him anyway. For sure.
What To Watch For
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott crossed the finish line 1-2-3 at Pocono a year ago. They would be the ones to watch, plus Ross Chastain.
Hamlin obviously wants to prove he can win at Pocono without a piece of tape on the grille underneath his wrap that got him disqualified from the race last year.
Busch, who also was disqualified for the same reason, just wants to rebound from last week, when he hit the wall three times at New Hampshire.
And Elliott needs all the strong performances he can get to make the playoffs.
Chastain? Remember he was fighting Hamlin for the lead last year when Hamlin pinched him into the wall, ending his day, as part of retaliation from races earlier in the year.
Thinking Out Loud
For the second time in three weeks, NASCAR put drivers who were involved in an accident ahead of those who got through the area cleanly.
At the Chicago street course, that seemed a little bit understandable because when the course got blocked, it would have taken several minutes to go through video and determine everyone’s position. So NASCAR went back to its previous scoring loop, as its rules state, and pretty much decided that everyone kept reasonable speed (the rule isn’t caution car speed, just reasonable speed to hold the position).
But at New Hampshire, Alex Bowman got turned and did a half-spin and the caution came out. He lost several spots, but NASCAR again went back to its previous scoring loop. Bowman got his original spot back.
Even though a car keeps “reasonable speed,” if the car was the reason for the caution, then it should lose some spots until it regains the speed of its competitors. It just seems unjust — and the optics are even worse — for a car to get its position back when it clearly lost positions on the track.
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They Said It
“I’m just bad at big decisions. … I wish I had more time to figure out what I want to do next year, but I don’t, so I’ll know soon, and you’ll know soon.” —Martin Truex Jr. on making a decision regarding retirement
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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