In the Driver’s Seat with Alex Bowman

Alex Bowman is prime for strong results and wins in 2018. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Alex Bowman is prime for strong results and wins in 2018. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Perseverance and determination are incredible intangibles in life, such as the case for Alex Bowman.  Needless to say, the Tucson, Ariz. native earned his opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Nationwide/Axalta Chevy Camaro.

Following years of racing with upstart teams , Bowman was recruited to race in place of an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr during the second half of 2016.  In 10 starts, the young racer earned three top-10s, including a 10th at Chicagoland, seventh at Kansas, and sixth at ISM Raceway.

As a result, Bowman was named as the new driver of the No. 88 ride starting this season.

By and large, there’s been some ebbs and flows for the Arizonan and his team.  All things considered, a 14th place points ranking, a Daytona 500 pole, and a top-10 at Martinsville isn’t too shabby.

After all, Bowman and company are dealing with a new car in the Camaro.  At the same time, crew chief Greg Ives and the crew are ardently working towards bidding for top-10s and wins.

Humble, soft spoken, and genial, Bowman expressed confidence with his team’s progress.  After all, Hendrick Motorsports, as a whole, showcased some speed and muscle at Martinsville and Texas.

Furthermore, Bowman showed some pre-qualifying muscle, posting the fifth quickest time in first practice at Bristol.  No doubt, the fourth year Cup driver is knocking on the door as a true contender.

Earlier today, I caught up with Bowman to talk about the start of his season, working with the No. 88 team, and some culinary opinions.  Incidentally, the proud owner of Roscoe and Finn is perhaps a lucky dog with the latter topic!

In any case, let’s get to know more about this rising star and get “In the Driver’s Seat with Alex Bowman!”

Rob Tiongson : After all you’ve been through in your career, how gratifying and exciting has it been for you to race in your first full-time season with the No. 88 team?

Bowman leads Denny Hamlin down the frontstretch at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Bowman leads Denny Hamlin down the frontstretch at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Alex Bowman :  It’s been a lot of fun driving for HMS.  Obviously, it’s the best opportunity that I’ve ever had in my career.  Just really trying to make the most of it and enjoy it.  It’s been kind of an up and down start to the season.  We’ve had speed here and there and we continue to get better.  Last week was a little rough.

It’s been a lot of fun.  This whole team’s working really well together and we’re going to continue to improve and hopefully get some wins here soon.

RT : Given the new Chevy Camaro and overall younger structure at Hendrick, do you feel you and your team are closing in on contending for race wins and a playoff spot?

AB :  Yea, absolutely.  It took us a couple of weeks to get a grasp on the new car but it’s going to continue to get better every week.  We’ll go from there.  We’ve got to keep improving at it.

The West Coast Swing, you kinda have what you have.  We weren’t really able to do much out there, but I felt like when we got back and were able to go to Martinsville and Texas last week, even though we didn’t get the result we needed, our racecars were much better.  We’re going to keep working hard at it and the cars will keep getting better.

RT : If you’re battling for the win against a teammate, do you feel pressure, or do you find it rewarding to beat them, and view them as any other racer?

AB :  If we’re battling for the win, I don’t really care who it is.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a teammate or anybody else on the racetrack.  We’ll do whatever we can to get a win at that situation.  It doesn’t matter who’s in front of us.

RT : You worked with crew chief Greg Ives during your substitute role back in 2016.  What’s been some of the intangibles that he’s brought to the table that’s helped you as a racer?

AB :  He’s just really supportive and stays positive in rough situations and finds a way to capitalize on a lot of opportunities.  Even when things start going wrong, like last week, he found ways to use it as a learning experience and get more reps for the pit crew and stuff like that.

It’s always good to have Greg on the box.  He’s been great to work with so far and I really enjoy working with him.

RT :  Do you sometimes want your crew chief to get stern with you when you’re venting about something on the track and to get you refocused?

AB :  Yea, I think he does a really good job with that.  I don’t tend to get too excited on the radio but he definitely does a good job at keeping me in line with those situations.

RT : As one of the young racers in NASCAR, how important is it for you to engage and connect with new fans along with the longtime supporters of the sport, be it at the track, at an event, or on social media?

Relentless, Bowman searches for the best line at Atlanta. (Photo Credit: Zach Darrow/TPF)

Relentless, Bowman searches for the best line at Atlanta. (Photo Credit: Zach Darrow/TPF)

AB :  It’s really important.  Obviously, the fans are a big part with what we do.  We wouldn’t be racing without them so it’s cool to see all the support that the 88 fans have shown this year.

We’re definitely trying to give them something to cheer for on Sundays and stop and sign autographs and take pictures whenever I can.  Definitely, you’ve got to do what you can for the fans because you wouldn’t be here without them.

RT :  You’ve mentioned in the past how you’re more laid back, like to work on cars and get your hands dirty.  Would say you’ve been working diligently on establishing your own legacy with this car and with your team?

AB :  I’d say that would just come with time.  I’m not doing anything in particular to establish a legacy.  I’m just trying to be my own person and a lot of that comes with results.  If we win a bunch of races, that’ll take care of itself and that’s where my focus is at the moment.

RT : Nationwide has a neat contest for pet owners.  I’ve got a cat named Claudia and you’re the proud owner of your dog Finn.  The 2018 Paws and Racing Promotion is running through April 30, 2018. How can fans partake in this and have their furry friend featured on your Nationwide Camaro during the Richmond playoff race?

AB :  The Paws and Racing Promotion has been really cool.  You can enter online, submit a picture of your pet, and you can be entered to get them on the back of the 88 car in the fall Richmond race.  That’ll be really cool for a lucky fan to win.

It’s really cool to work with Nationwide on the pet insurance side of things and work with my dogs Roscoe and Finn.  It’s been really cool.

They surprised me last week and put Finn on the back of the car.  We’ll have a lucky fan’s pet on the back of the car at the Richmond race and they’ll get to hang out with Dale and I during prerace.  It’ll be really cool for them.

RT :  Is it true that you can even have a reptile entered into the contest? (laughs)

AB :  I think you can enter whatever you want.  (laughs) I don’t know if some crazy exotic pet is going to make the cut, but we’ll see.  I don’t think I get to pick the winner, so we’ll have to wait and see.

RT : Each racer or crew member in the sport has a welcome to NASCAR moment.  What was your feeling when you saw your first Lionel NASCAR diecast car, be it with your rookie ride back in 2014 or your current car?

Bowman was delighted to see his pupper Finn on his No. 88 car last weekend. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

Bowman was delighted to see his pupper Finn on his No. 88 car last weekend. (Photo Credit: Jose L. Acero Jr/TPF)

AB :  It’s pretty cool.  Seeing a die-cast replica of the car that you drive is a pretty cool thing.  It’s definitely appreciated to see people buying those and it’s cool to be signing a lot of 88 die-casts at the racetracks these days.

RT :  Do you collect those or acquire them from sponsors?

AB :  Yea, if someone gives one to me, I’ll end up with it.  I have a box full of cars from a few years ago but that’s about it.

RT : You jokingly tweeted about your girlfriend Emma’s cooking last weekend at Texas.  Is it safe to say that she’s paid you back for your witty comment on Twitter?

AB :  (laughs)  Yea, she is not the greatest bacon cook in the world.  Sometimes, she likes to smoke up the motorhome but that’s part of it.  I didn’t end up in the doghouse so that was good!

RT :  We have a monthly feature with Matt DiBenedetto. What’s something you’d like to ask him for his May column?

AB :  Oh man.  That’s a tough one. How much time a day does he spend looking at himself in the mirror? (laughter)

RT :  Oh boy. (laughs) I’ll have to let him know it came from you for his blog next month!

Author/Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Alex Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports for their time with this feature!  Be sure to follow Alex on his Facebook and Twitter pages!  Also, thanks to Zach Darrow and Jose Acero Jr for their photos as acknowledged!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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