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Thanks To Junior, Bowman Showing His Talents

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 8 2016
Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw something in driver Alex Bowman. Now, a lot of people are seeing something in Bowman. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw something in driver Alex Bowman. Now, a lot of people are seeing something in Bowman. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Garry Eller)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Prior to mid-July, Alex Bowman wasn’t a familiar name to most race fans.

The 23-year-old Arizona native had enjoyed success in ARCA, winning six races in 21 starts over a sprint-logo-08two-year period, but when it came to NASCAR he possessed no victories. He had produced top-five and top-10 finishes in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East and West and Xfinity Series, but none in the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series.

Yet, Bowman caught Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s eye. In seven Xfinity races this year for JR Motorsports, he has yet to finish outside the top 10. His best finish came at Dover in May when he placed third. It was mid-July, however, when Bowman’s career took a different turn.  

At the time, Earnhardt was suffering from concussion-like symptoms and needed a substitute. Bowman was summoned to step into Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the July 17 New Hampshire race.  He qualified 20th and finished 26th.  Nothing to brag about, but then came a top-10 finish at Chicago last month and a front-row starting position for this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In qualifying Thursday night at the 1.5-mile track, Bowman nearly claimed the pole with a 196.000- mph lap. Kevin Harvick was just a tick better at 196.029 mph.  

“I would say qualifying second in a Cup race is probably the best car we’ve ever had,” Bowman said.  “What I’ve done for the last couple of years has been to manage expectations and realize that 20th to 25th is a great day. It’s so cool (now) to go to the race track knowing that you have equipment capable of winning if you give the right feedback and make the right calls throughout the race. It’s been the most fun I’ve had in a long time, probably since I ran ARCA and won a bunch of races.”

Bowman noted it was Earnhardt who saved his career two years ago when he gave him a chance in an Xfinity car.

“He has been a big part of my life and I will definitely cherish that friendship forever,” Bowman said about Earnhardt. “Without him, I wouldn’t have gotten the ride I did last year. Nobody on the Cup side really knew who I was until I out-qualified Dale Jr. at Richmond two years ago. Obviously, I hate the circumstances, but without him saying, ‘Hey, put Alex in it’, I don’t think that Hendrick Motorsports really would have thought of me. Maybe they would have, but who knows?”

Since being named to substitute for Earnhardt Bowman has split time with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, who Hendrick called out of retirement. By the time the season concludes, Bowman will have competed in 10 Cup events. However, his plans for the 2017 season remain uncertain.

“There are not really any rides open next year, so these races may be the rest of my Cup career,” Bowman said. “You never really know what the future holds. The one thing I said I was going to do throughout all of these races was to make the most of it and to have the most fun I possibly could. I’m not going to let the pressure kill me. I’m not going to let the people on social media dictate how I feel when I go home at night.

“You never know what is going to happen in the next couple of years and who is going to decide to do what and what is going to open up. Next year, if I’m just working with them (Hendrick Motorsports) in my roles away from the race track and get to be a part of such a great organization, I’m pretty content with that.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 8 2016
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