For Alex Bowman, It’s Super Sub To Sidelines

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 18 2017

For Alex Bowman, Saturday night’s Clash will be his first race of the year. It could also be his last. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Journeyman driver Alex Bowman talked at length about all the things he learned when he subbed for injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports in 2016. What he didn’t learn was how to land a full-time NASCAR Cup ride for 2017.

Bowman will start Saturday night’s Clash exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway in the 88 Chevy but after that, his driving schedule is all holes.

“I don’t know,” Bowman said when asked Friday what he would do after the conclusion of the Clash. “We’ve been talking about that quite a bit.

“I do have a couple of races, not in the Cup Series, but in some other stuff coming up.  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.”

Many of the people at Hendrick lauded the job Bowman did as a substitute driver. He logged three top-10 finishes in his 10 starts, won the pole at Phoenix in the fall – which qualified him for the Clash – and kept the car relatively clean.

Bowman, who knows all about driving non-competitive Cup cars as he spent 2014 driving for BK Racing and 2015 driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, was hoping his 2016 success would open eyes and doors at a top-tier team for the coming season.

Hasn’t happened.

“I was kind of surprised that a winning Xfinity car or something like that didn’t open up,” he said. “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. 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.

“Whatever I’m doing, I want to be part of a winning team. Nothing was going to drag me away from here. So yes and no. I would have liked to be in a winning Xfinity car when I can be, but at the same time, there weren’t a lot of Cup rides open. It is kind of a hard year to have that happen.”

Earnhardt appears to have sufficiently recovered from his head injuries to give it a go this season.

But, the unpredictable nature of both head injuries and auto racing could necessitate the need for a substitute driver at some point in the future. Could that sub be Bowman? Here again, the answers seem uncertain.

“I think so,” Bowman said of being a backup at Hendrick. “That is something that we haven’t really talked about.  Obviously, you never hope that situation comes up, but I think after last year as easy as it is for me as far as already being here with Hendrick Motorsports, I think if something did come up that I would think I would be the one that would get called for it.”

For now it’s the Clash and done.

Bowman said the offer to drive the 88 on Saturday night came his way at a test in Darlington. Hendrick’s Doug Douchardt made the offer.

Bowman snapped at it.

“I said OK, cool,” the 24-year-old native of Tucson, Ariz., said. “So, I am very thankful for the opportunity. Dale’s been so great to me. I wouldn’t be here without him. He is the one that pointed me out when he wasn’t feeling good. I feel like I owe a lot to him, and I am very thankful for him to put me in the car for this race.”

The Clash – a non-points event – is a 75-lap/187.5-mile race split into two segments, separated by a mandatory caution period at Lap 25. The race will be broadcast live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 8 p.m. ET.

 Brad Keselowski, in the No. 2 Ford for Penske Racing, will start on the pole in the Clash with 2016 Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing on the outside pole.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 18 2017
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