Perhaps Alex Bowman‘s newest nickname should be “The Finisher” given his late race dramatics for wins.
Naturally, Bowman, a 28-year-old Tucson, Arizona native, preferred a victory leading into his first Championship 4 battle at his home state track Phoenix Raceway. While the seventh year NASCAR Cup Series racer ranks 14th after last Sunday’s Xfinity 500 at Martinsville, it’s still a satisfying moment.
“Yeah, definitely extremely happy to be able to get a fourth win for the 48 this year,” Bowman said. “It’s been a rough couple months on us since we started the Playoffs. To come here with such a fast race car, the capability of winning is awesome.”
Bowman’s victory continues Hendrick Motorsports’ winning ways. This seemingly went under the radar considering the late race tangle between Bowman and Championship 4 contender Denny Hamlin.
All in all, winning cures everything including difficult slumps like the one experienced by Bowman and his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet team. In this case, Bowman acknowledged the realities that he and his crewmates endured.
“Yeah, these last couple months have been painful,” he shared. “It’s been so frustrating. Honestly, our teammates have kicked our butts for quite a while now. I think Greg and myself have both been pretty down and frustrated, not understood what was going on. We weren’t doing things any differently. We weren’t approaching weekends differently. We just have been off.”
Starting from the 13th position, Bowman placed eighth in stage 1 before driving to a solid second place finish in stage 2. Working his way toward the front by lap 478, he waged in a competitive battle against Hamlin for the win.
Tangling with six laps to go in turn 3, Bowman held on for the victory at a track he’s struggled throughout his career. In spite of the win, Bowman acknowledged an area of improvement for the No. 48 team.
“To come to a place that was probably our worst place when we started together, have such a good day, get another win, it feels great,” he said. “Obviously, four wins this year feels great. Wish we were in the Round of 4. We just need to figure out consistency and this team will be something really, really special.”
Truthfully, Bowman seemed like a solid Championship 4 contender long before the Playoffs. Like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Larson, Bowman has a solid crew chief in Greg Ives.
Unfortunately, consistency seemed to allude the hardy racer and his team. As one of the most cerebral drivers in the Cup ranks, Bowman observed his Playoff run last year along with the realities of this season.
“I think I was really confident coming into this year,” Bowman said. “We entered the Playoffs super strong last year. I feel like we didn’t get much credit for it, but I think we scored the second most points of anybody, didn’t have the Playoff points to fall back on because our summer wasn’t it needed to be. Finished sixth in points, were really fast. But the thing that I’ve always circled is to just try to be consistent, consistently run well. We’ve struggled to do that.
“It’s really hard for me to be super excited right now. The beginning of the season if you told me I was going to win four times, I’d be pretty excited. Wish we were going to Phoenix with a chance to win the championship. It has been painful to kind of go through the Playoffs the way they’ve been. But it’s awesome to at least start to end the year on a strong note.”
The usually mild mannered racer has tried to make light of a difficult circumstance. Then again, Bowman would like to resolve the differences between himself and Hamlin.
“I don’t like drama,” he offered. “I’m pretty shy and keep to myself, do my own thing. This isn’t the most comfortable situation for me. At the same time I’m paid to win races. That’s what we’re here to do. We’ll talk this week. He’s got so much going on with trying to go win a championship.
“Understandably, he’s probably, after tonight, more focused on other things. I think the last thing he wants is for us two to continue anything next week. We’ll just hopefully talk. He’s going to be mad. I have my side of the story. It’s not going to make him any happier, but I’ll tell him, we’ll go from there.”
Like a football team that just missed the big dance, Bowman realizes the time is now on focusing on a strong finish to the year.
Regardless of the great year of change awaiting the Arizonan and his rivals, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race offers a shining opportunity for Bowman heading into the winter months.
“I mean, obviously it can all go a different direction next week,” Bowman acknowledged. “If we could just end the season strong next week at Phoenix, that’s been a place that’s been pretty rough on us over the years. Going to the off-season with a lot of unknowns. Having positive momentum ending this way is good.”