Who is Alex Bowman? Persistent, particular, and a caustic open book

Who is Alex Bowman?

Maybe you heard of him when he replaced the concussed Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016 for 10 races, sharing the ride with Jeff Gordon. Maybe you heard of him when he was named as the full-time driver of the No. 88 starting in 2018 following Earnhardt’s retirement.

Maybe you heard of him when he made the playoffs in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports. Or maybe when he earned his first career victory last year at Chicagoland.

Those who watch NASCAR regularly knew Bowman from his early stints at underfunded teams and his finding out he was fired from Tommy Baldwin Racing when scrolling Twitter just a few weeks prior to the 2016 Daytona 500.

So who is Bowman, the guy who pummeled the field at California to win his second race in 156 Cup starts?

The Arizona native relates to the person who often would choose hanging out with pets rather than people. He relates to the car junkie as he works on the midget car he owns for hours and hours, trying to perfect it, wanting it to race fast but equally look just as cool while doing it. He relates to those with a quirky sense of humor and those whose emotions often are worn on the sleeve, even if at times that doesn’t portray the most positivity.

But can you blame him? This is a guy who keeps getting knocked down and getting back up. He suffered a major accident at age 17 when racing a midget, when he spun and hit a tractor trailer tire used to mark the inside of the racing surface. He flipped several times and had to be cut out of the car, suffering broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a collapsed lung.

He returned to racing five months later, refusing to listen to the advice of his doctors — and his mother – to remain on the sidelines a little bit longer.

His road in NASCAR wasn’t easy, racing cars where not much was expected, and he didn’t do much except run them about to their potential. A quiet young adult, he was miserable. He felt if he didn’t win, he didn’t do a good job.

He had hoped taking some funding to JR Motorsports for a handful of races in 2016 would work in his favor, and he had competed in just four Xfinity races in 2016 for the team when Earnhardt had to sit out and recommended Bowman as his substitute driver sat Hendrick.

Bowman didn’t immediately shine but then he nearly won at Phoenix, leading 194 laps, in the next-to-last race of the season. That could have gotten him another ride at an underfunded organization. Bowman, though, had been there, done that, and he didn’t want any part of trying to carry the equipment on his shoulders and have a top-25 finish feel like an accomplishment.

Instead, he did the dirty work, spending hours in a slow test vehicle gathering data on race tracks and then countless hours in a simulator making sure that the feel was the same as the test. There were no guarantees of an actual race car to drive.

As he saw other drivers considered for the 88 during Dale Jr.’s final season, Bowman wondered if he’d get his chance as it was pretty much crickets on the other end. Finally he got the call. The 88 was his. And so far, he’s done enough to remain in the seat, the win at California potentially going a long way toward solidifying his future.

Throughout it all, he has remained a guy who will sell t-shirts for his midget driver C.J. Leary at the Chili Bowl, as well as race himself.

He can be unconventional. After making it to the B-Main at Chili Bowl in January this year, Bowman wasn’t totally thrilled with his run – his other car with Leary did make the A-main – but Bowman posted on Instagram how his team drank 14 cases of beer during the week. He boasted they had more fun than anyone else.

Maybe Bowman was confident he would have success later in 2020. After his win Sunday, he mulled where he would get an 88 tattoo as part of a pact he had made with his team to celebrate the next win.

He also joked after the victory about speeding on the highway, not seeing the officers in the room who were there for security. Yeah, occasionally things can get awkward for Bowman when he’s just being himself.

But he doesn’t seem to care. When you’ve been chewed up, spit out and treaded water, you just ride the wave.