Alex Bowman on Hendrick: 'Nothing was going to drag me away from here'
Alex Bowman is preparing for what could be his final ride in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car.
At least for now.
Bowman will start eighth in the 17-car field for Saturday night’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway (8 p.m. ET, FS1).
It will be Bowman’s last hoorah in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet before Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to full-time competition in the 59th annual Daytona 500 Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX. Bowman subbed for Earnhardt in the No. 88 for 10 races when a concussion sidelined Earnhardt for the last half of last season. His best finish was a sixth at Phoenix after winning the pole.
But this ride in the Clash? He didn’t think it was even on the radar.
“We joked about it a lot,” Bowman said Friday afternoon prior to practice for the Clash at Daytona. “But it never even crossed my mind that I would be driving the No. 88. We had joked around … Greg Ives (crew chief for No. 88 team) was talking about Greg Ives Racing bringing a car, or something crazy like that. I just kind of let it go quiet.”
Fortunately for the modest young driver, the joke turned into a reality.
“I didn’t want step on any toes, or ask anybody and have it seem like I was begging for something,” he said. “I wasn’t really asking. I guess it was the Darlington test, we were all sitting around, and Mr. (Doug) Duchardt said I was going to drive the No. 88 in the Clash. I said, 'Okay, cool.' ”
But when it comes to putting pressure on himself to perform well, Bowman is actually doing the exact opposite, taking more of a nonchalant approach.
“I mean it’s just another race, especially being a speedway race, there is no one thing I can do to do better or worse really,” Bowman said. "It’s another opportunity to have a lot of fun with Hendrick Motorsports. That is something I kind of tried to do all last season was just to have fun and that is what we are going to try to do on Saturday night and hopefully bring home a trophy.”
Bowman indicated he has more plans for the 2017 season, including driving the simulator three days a week at Hendrick and testing for Chevrolet.
“I do have a couple of races, not in the Cup Series, but in some other stuff coming up,” said Bowman. "I’m excited about that I can’t really talk a whole lot about it, but I will be racing some stuff. Really, I will be hanging out at the shop and coming to the race track when I can just trying to be a sponge and learn as much as I can.”
After winning the pole in the second-to-last race at Phoenix and earning two top 10s last season, Bowman said he had some offers on the table. But none of them were sweet enough for him to part ways with Hendrick Motorsports.
“I was kind of surprised that a winning XFINITY car or something like that didn’t open up,” said Bowman. “At the same time, I had quite a few full-time Cup opportunities that were offered. But there was just really wasn’t anything that was going to make me leave Hendrick Motorsports.”
Showing wisdom well beyond his years, Bowman feels it’s more important to stick with a championship-caliber team, regardless of what his job title may be.
“I feel like I want to be part of a winning organization whether I am driving; just working for the team; doing testing or doing the simulation stuff,” he added. “Whatever I’m doing, I want to be part of a winning team. Nothing was going to drag me away from here.”