Alex Bowman is a remarkable young man. He’s handsome, well-spoken and handles himself like a true professional off the race track.
To be put in the situation he was this year filling in for NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and to deliver great runs is well, once again, remarkable.
My FOX NASCAR partner Jeff Gordon told me that after he had filled in for Dale Jr. at the Brickyard 400, that no one has any idea how much of a microscope you are put under. He told me it was like nothing he has ever encountered.
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Now remember, this is coming from a four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and future NASCAR Hall of Famer. He said every move he made, everyone was watching closely.
Sunday at Phoenix Raceway was validation of why he is with JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series and why owner Rick Hendrick tapped him to help fill-in for the recovering Dale Jr.
The 23-year-old went to Phoenix and did everything but win the race.
He sat on the pole and dominated the race by leading 194 of 234 laps. That is the most laps any Hendrick Motorsports driver has lead in a race since Jimmie Johnson at Dover in 2014.
In my book, to know that young man has no ride in place for 2017 right now is a travesty. In my strong opinion, that is a part of our sport that is broken in half.
Now understand I am not pointing a finger and saying it is anyone’s fault. It takes millions upon millions of dollars for these owners to field a race car these days in our sport.
Like the sport has been built on, it all boils down to sponsorship. You have to have it or you simply can’t compete. So, if a sponsor wants Driver A because they are more well-known or have a better “brand” to use today’s language, but Driver B has more talent, well trust me, Driver A will get the nod.
That’s how the owners get boxed in. Like the old saying of “follow the money,” these owners in NASCAR today are forced into going with Driver A.
To me it is just sad and wrong. I’ve been watching this young man over the last couple years, and obviously filling in for Dale Jr. has raised Alex’s profile to a whole new level.
Let’s face it, we probably have 30 percent of the Cup drivers in that garage making seven figures a year riding around, hoping for a top-25 finish week in and week out. They couldn’t even tote Alex Bowman’s helmet bag.
Again, I just think it’s a travesty that this young man doesn’t have a ride in 2017, especially after what he has shown everyone in that No. 88 car this year as Sunday will mark his 10th and final race.
I realize there are talented drivers all over this country that will never get the chance to showcase themselves in any of NASCAR’s top three touring series and Alex has been given that chance.
But, it would be a mortal sin for a car owner not to snatch him up.