Alex Bowman will race in Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, then return to his normal life.
That’s not something that Bowman is necessarily happy about, but he understands the circumstances.
In the 2016 NASCAR Cup season, Bowman drove 10 races in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed the second half of the season with a concussion.
During that time, Bowman – a racing journeyman whose day job was working in Hendrick Motorsports’ racing simulator – won the pole at Phoenix International Raceway. That earned the No. 88 Chevy a spot in Saturday’s Clash, an exhibition race that signals the unofficial start of the NASCAR season.
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.
Bowman said Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt informed Bowman that he would drive the car in the Clash instead of Earnhardt – who has received medical clearance to return this season – during a test session at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in December.
“I said ‘OK, cool,’ ” Bowman recalled Friday at a news conference at Daytona. “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.”
Alex Bowman drove 10 races in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed the second half of the 2016 NASCAR season with a concussion.
But after the race, Bowman will return to Concord and the simulator. He said he will also help test Chevy “wheel force” cars and said he has some other, undisclosed, racing opportunities coming up.
“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.”
Bowman, 23, who had three top-10 finishes in addition to his Phoenix pole last season, was hoping he could parlay that performance into another Cup ride or, at least, something in the Xfinity Series.
3 Top-10 finishes by Bowman in 2016.
He said he got some Cup offers but nothing that really caught his eye. An Xfinity opportunity didn’t present itself either.
“There just really wasn’t anything that was going to make me leave Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said. “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.”
Clash: What you need to know
Green flag: 8 p.m., Saturday
TV: Fox Sports One.
Race length: 75 laps (187.5 miles), with a competition caution at Lap 25.
Field: Pole winners from 2016 season (Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr.); former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full time in 2016 (Danica Patrick); 2016 playoff participants (Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray).