Notes: Success Not Going To Bowman’s Head

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 10 2019
Alex Bowman was the surprise pole winner at Daytona a year ago. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Alex Bowman became a household name last year when he succeeded Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and then won the Daytona 500 pole. However, the 25-year-old driver said Saturday he doesn’t believe he’s changed much as a person.

“I still drove my own truck and trailer to-and-from the Chili Bowl (in January) and (I) still went racing all winter,” Bowman said at Daytona International Speedway prior to practice for Sunday’s Clash. “I feel like I’m working harder than I ever have and doing more to prepare than I ever have.

“I feel like last year, for me, it kind of exposed my weaknesses and exposed areas that I could improve on. I’ve been trying to do that all winter and be more prepared for this year.”

Bowman noted that last year was a “really tough year and frustrating” for all of Hendrick Motorsports. This year, victories are expected and “Mr. Hendrick is going to kick our butts if we don’t go win some races.”

The Arizona native believes Sunday’s Clash will provide a glimpse into the rest of Speedweeks.

“Obviously, it’s such a different race because it’s 20 cars versus 40 cars,” Bowman said. “(But) I think it’s kind of nice to have some drafting practice this early in the week and be able to think about it for a week instead of not getting any drafting practice until the Duels.

JTG Daugherty Racing is celebrating its 25th anniversary and it’s starting the 2019 season with a new engine supplier. For many years, the Harrisburg, N.C.-based team received its engines from Richard Childress Racing, but this year its powerplants will come from Hendrick Motorsports.

“We got a chance to run a Hendrick motor with Chris Buescher at Texas and even the old package it looked like it was worth about five spots,” team co-owner Tad Geschickter said Saturday. “It just had a little bit more recovery when you bobbled in the corner. It picked up your speed a little bit different. Maybe the torque power curve is a little bit different.”

Aric Almirola was less than a mile from winning last year’s Daytona 500 when a bump from eventual victor Austin Dillon sent him careening into the third-turn wall on the final lap. It was an emotionally devastating time for Almirola, but the 34-year-old Floridian said Saturday he didn’t want people to see a temper tantrum from him.

“My kids were sitting back in my motor home watching on TV like the rest of the world, so at that time it was an opportunity for me to be a good role model for my kids,” Almirola said. “You’ve got two choices, you can either keep your head high and take the high road, or you can pout and piss and moan, and the sponsors usually like the first one.”

Eighteen-year-old Harrison Burton stayed calm in his superspeedway debut Saturday to claim a narrow victory over 18-year-old Todd Gilliland in an intense green-white-checker finish in the Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway

Burton led 48 of the 86 laps in the race that was slowed by five caution flags for 30 laps. He averaged 126.655 mph.

Burton’s victory came the same day that John Menard, ARCA President Ron Drager and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced Menards had signed a multi-year contract to become the series title sponsor. It will now be known as the ARCA Menards Series. Drager said the deal would never have occurred if ARCA hadn’t been under the NASCAR umbrella. NASCAR announced last spring it had purchased ARCA. The executives noted Menards’ customers and ARCA fans were synonymous.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 10 2019
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