In the Hot Seat with Alex Bowman

By all means, Alex Bowman capitalizes on his opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports.

By all means, Alex Bowman capitalizes on his opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports.

Altogether, Alex Bowman continually capitalizes on his opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports. After all, Bowman answered the bell when he substituted for Dale Earnhardt Jr in various races back in 2016.

In the long run, Alex Bowman’s journey in NASCAR proves quite inspirational considering his ups and downs. By and large, Bowman, who made his presence known in ARCA, experienced trying times in his initial Cup campaigns.

Truly, Alex Bowman experienced incredible challenges that would test the strongest of individuals. However, the 28-year-old Tucson, Ariz. native kept his name and presence relevant.

With this in mind, Bowman fought tooth and nail for one of the best drives in racing. Indeed, the sixth year Cup driver worked on the simulator before getting the call of a lifetime in 2016.

Significantly, Alex Bowman went from unsung hero status to a legitimate NASCAR superstar in the past five years. Markedly, Bowman, who won the spring Richmond and Dover races this year, looks like a true title contender.

Recently, I caught up with the witty, amiable racer as we caught up on his journey in recent years. Also, ahead of Sunday’s EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas, Bowman shared his excitement for this race. Now, let’s all get “In the Hot Seat with Alex Bowman” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson : Alex, it’s been a while, Since we last talked, you’re piloting the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet. While the colors and numbers have changed, you have the same crew from the No. 88 team from the past three seasons. You’ve got the wins at Richmond and Dover in the books. How encouraged are you by your team’s strong start and the arsenal of fast cars in your fleet?

Chiefly, Alex Bowman embraces the Hendrick culture with teammate Kyle Larson. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Chiefly, Alex Bowman embraces the Hendrick culture with teammate Kyle Larson. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Alex Bowman : Yeah, for sure. I think Hendrick Motorsports has been really strong to start the season. On the 48 side of things, you know, we’ve not had the greatest stars of the year. We struggled a little bit and had a lot of really fast cars and a lot of bad luck.

Going to Kansas we really struggled, which was a surprise for us. I think we expected to be really, really strong. So, definitely not quite as strong as I would have hoped.

Having a win already at Richmond, that was was really cool to get Ally, their first win. And hopefully, you know, we can get a little consistency back and get pointed in the right direction.

Tiongson : Certainly, and I think it’s pretty cool that for the weekend at Darlington, you got to pay homage to your crew chief Greg Ives with a paint scheme reminiscent of his late model car when he raced in the Midwest. So I mean, I’m sure that had to give you guys a little motivation during the throwback weekend.

Bowman : Yeah, definitely. I think it’s, it’s pretty neat, Greg was definitely excited and got pretty emotional about it. So it’s cool to be able to do that. And for Ally to be on board and all the guys have really embraced it. We all were able to surprise him with it, which is really, really neat. I was so excited to get that car on track. Darlington was really good to us last year.

Tiongson : As you say, you guys were challenging for the win in that first race after the COVID pause when NASCAR kind of kicked things off for the sports world last year in America. Most most fans who will be watching you on TV or at the track may recall your stock car journey when you started off with BK Racing back in 2014.

However, you were a major presence in the ARCA East series in 2011 and in the national ARCA Series a year later. How did racing in ARCA help you prepare for the demands and competitive nature of NASCAR?

Bowman : Yeah, I mean, I think it was it was definitely a good stepping stone. For me, you know, growing up racing open wheel cars, just getting stock car experience was really crucial. Getting through to some of the same racetracks that we go to kind of learning to do pit stops, work with a spotter, all that good stuff that I never really dealt with on the open wheel side of things, was was really good.

So I think it was a lot of fun. We won a bunch of races, which was really cool, really enjoyed it. And was was a big part of my career for sure.

Tiongson : And I think it definitely had to help form and shape the way that you have approached racing, not only with getting in the car, but how to deal with the pressures as well, which you’ve handled quite well, to say the least. And another moment, I would say that has defined a bit of your career is how you really worked hard for your opportunity. I think that’s something that fans have appreciated about you over the years.

When you consider what you experience in your career, and then being called up to race for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016, how did that how did you keep encouraged and persevered during those trying times?

In particular, Alex Bowman's determination rewarded him with a lifechanging opportunity. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

In particular, Alex Bowman’s determination rewarded him with a lifechanging opportunity. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Bowman : That was definitely tough. 2016 was interesting to say the least, you know, lost my Cup deal a couple of weeks before Daytona and ended up spending most of the year on the couch and driving simulator. And you know, to get that call from from Dale Jr. And Mr. Hendrick to come drive the No. 88, a little bit at the end of that year, was really cool.

You know, I had a lot of fun. We ran really, really well. You know, we’re in contention to win a couple of them. And it was a lot of fun. So, definitely, it was cool to kind of go from some really low moments to some really high moments. And, you know, definitely, I think the struggle has made me appreciate where I’m at today a whole lot more than than if it would have been easy. So, it definitely wasn’t fun at times, but I think it definitely made me better.

Tiongson : When you get that call from Rick Hendrick, did you pick up the phone immediately? Or did you have it go to voicemail because you just weren’t sure if it was a real call from him?

Bowman : Yeah, I mean, going into that first race at Loudon, it was really just Dale that called me Dale and Greg Ives. So obviously, I answered those phone calls right away. I saw Mr. Hendrick at the racetrack. But yeah, if the boss calls and it goes to voicemail, it’s typically because I’m in victory lane or something and don’t have my phone.

Other than that, I think I’ve answered every phone call that he’s ever called me. So I try not to let him go to voicemail very often.

Tiongson : Good call. That would have been a strange situation if you hadn’t gotten picked up that call right away.

This weekend, you’ll and your competitors are going to be racing at the Circuit of the Americas here in Austin, Texas, which is a track that has posted numerous motorsports events, including the US Grand Prix for Formula 1. So what’s your thoughts about heading into a new market like here in Austin and in racing, the other renowned racetrack like COTA?

Bowman : Yeah, it’s gonna be really neat. I think it’s gonna be really cool, interesting challenge for us. The racetrack is pretty awkward to say the least a lot of really, like, kind of just an awkward layout and elevation changes, blind corners, stuff like that.

So, I’m excited to get there and see our Cup car drives around the place. I really like new things and new challenges. So going to a place like that, that none of us have ever been to before and cars that haven’t raced before, it’s gonna be a lot of fun to just kind of learn throughout the weekend and see what we need in the race car to be successful.

Tiongson : While it may not be a totally normal time right now, although we’re getting towards it, you know, being in Austin, I don’t know. I know you guys will probably arrive before the practice on Saturday for the practice session. Are you planning to take your guys today to go kart track next door?

Bowman : I don’t know. I didn’t even know there was a go kart track next door. So just kind of learning about the place as we go, you know, just never haven’t been there. I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll get into something. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Tiongson : There’s a lot to do around here. And that go kart track is just one of the many cool things to do in the in the city that “keeps things weird.” So I’m sure you’re gonna love it not just with racing, but the culture down here.

Like F1 great, Lewis Hamilton, you are also a dog lover. I believe one of your dog’s name is also Roscoe, just like Lewis. So maybe a little connection right there. But how’s life been with your canine companions, Roscoe and Finn?

In essence, Alex Bowman showcases his love for his dogs Roscoe and Finn. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

In essence, Alex Bowman showcases his love for his dogs Roscoe and Finn. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Bowman : Yeah, for sure. I think my Roscoe is older than Lewis’ Roscoe. And the real story is that he saw my Roscoe and thought it was the best dog name and totally just copied me so I’m pretty sure he ripped off my dog name.

But, no, they’re doing well. They always seem to get themselves into trouble. They’ve been a little mischievous lately, eating things they shouldn’t be eating. But both of them are doing really well.

Tiongson : That’s good to hear. It’s always fun to have our, our furry friends around and keep things light, even if they do get themselves in a bit of a of a troubling time.

My next question actually doesn’t come from me. It actually comes from my five year old nephew. His name is Francisco and he’s a new NASCAR fan who really likes your car by the way. He wants that cool. He loves that color. He’s like, “That’s a cool car uncle!”

Bowman : Aw, that’s cool!

Tiongson : And I’m like, “I know! You should see it one day in person.” He wants to know what you’d consider to be your dream car.

Bowman : You know, that’s a tough question. I feel like there’s always something new that is coming out, you know. New and exciting, new stuff coming out. So I have a couple of Corvettes. You know, the new Corvette from Chevy is pretty cool. The mirrors from them are pretty neat. I’m a Chevy guy.

So, you know, I have some other stuff too. But all the new Chevy stuff is really cool.

Tiongson : To see that Chevrolet Corvette is really nice and looks quite sleek. Now, Chevrolet and the other OEMs revealed those new Next Gen cars. I’ve got to say that the new Camaro looks so slick. How excited are you as a driver to get behind the wheel of the Next Gen car?

Bowman : Yeah, it’s gonna be really cool. You know, I think it’s going to be a big challenge. It’s going to do a lot of things way differently than we’re used to. So just trying to adapt to it is going to be crucial. The steering wheel is going to be way different, the brakes are way different. I mean, it sounds different, everything’s different about those cars. So learning about it is going to be cool.

I’ve driven it once at Martinsville. And it’s going to be a challenge. So I think we’re all excited to get behind the wheel of them at more racetracks and figure it out.

Tiongson : Taking the road on knowing sometimes is what is necessary to keep things fresh and unique with the proven series like NASCAR and in the product that has been quite sensational for over 70 years. So really looking forward to seeing you guys, we’ll those in anger next year.

Now, as fans have returned in phases throughout the past year, how’s it been hearing the fans cheering you guys on versus last year when it was just pretty quiet and competitors only?

Teamwork makes the dreamwork as shown with Alex Bowman and Cliff Daniels from Kyle Larson's No. 5 team. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Teamwork makes the dreamwork as shown with Alex Bowman and Cliff Daniels from Kyle Larson’s No. 5 team. (Photo: Hendrick Motorsports)

Bowman : Yeah, it’s been really nice. You know, it’s obviously a little different everywhere we go. But it’s just getting better and better. And it’s been cool to see them back out at the racetrack. So, you know, I think walking out pre race and post race and fans not being there last year was was pretty unique and weird, to be honest.

So really cool to have the fans back and glad that we’re able to do it safely for now and keep everybody safe. And hopefully, we can have even more fans back soon.

Tiongson : Certainly, I’m sure you guys miss having them in the infield. Now, you and crew chief Greg Ives have been working together since 2016. And it’s quite evident that you guys have a strong chemistry together with bringing out the most out of the cars.

What do you feel like Greg’s brought to the table that’s made you a better driver?

Bowman : Yeah, I mean, I think Greg does a really good job of helping me where I needed and, you know, looking at data and understanding, like, I can do something different to help the race car, but he also does a good job of not, you know, saying I need to drive a certain way he’s really good about just kind of, like, pointing me in the right direction, but also making the car work for what I need it to.

And I think we’ve really seen that recently at the short tracks with the speed that we’ve had. Some of the places that I’ve struggled at, we’ve really been able to adapt our race cars and helped me so I think that’s been really cool. He’s been a big help, and he’s great to work with. Obviously, we get along really well.

Our whole team meshes really well gets along well. And, you know, it’s a really strong group of guys and always enjoyed going to the racetrack with them.

Tiongson : So it’s helpful when you get to go out in the battlefield, and you’re out there with your comrades. And, you guys can all motivate each other. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be you one week, the next week, it could be one of your tire changers next week or it could be Greg. That’s the neat thing about team sports is that even though you’re the one driving that car out there, everybody makes a difference each weekend and contributes in their own unique way.

It’s time to put on your Ally racing cap for this particular question. Give me three reasons or selling points as to why you’re the best choice to win this year’s Cup Championship.

Ultimately, Alex Bowman remains a serious championship contender in 2021. (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Ultimately, Alex Bowman remains a serious championship contender in 2021. (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Bowman : (laughs) This is this is probably what I’m worst at. I’m not good at like harping on myself. I think you’d like you need like a Matt DiBenedetto or Corey LaJoie, somebody who’s always like, “Look at me.” Like I’m I don’t like the attention. So I don’t know.

I feel like you know, we have a really strong race team. Our playoff run last year was really, really strong. I think we scored the second most points out of anybody in the playoffs last year. So you know, we’re definitely strong enough to to get the job done.

You know, Phoenix is my home track. It’d be great to win a championship there. And you know, we need to get the 48 another championship. I think that was like four reasons. But we’ll we’ll give it those.

Tiongson : No, that’s fine. I think it’s perfect because you have four cars at Hendrick. And you’re driving the No. 48. Subtract your car number with Lewis’ car number of 44 and it’s four for Hendrick’s cars and your number of responses. I will accept that.

And that’s the best answer I’ve gotten so far was the selling points so far.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Alex Bowman for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. Also, thanks to Kelsey Schauf and Hendrick Motorsports for making this interview possible. You can keep track of Alex Bowman on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, his official website and here on TPF!

Moreover, this interview is dedicated to my friend and mentor Bob Jenkins. Presently, Bob is battling brain cancer but he remains resilient and strong during these challenging times. Thinking of you, Bob!

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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