Bow­man sa­vor­ing shot as fill-in

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer AP Auto Rac­ing Writer

CON­CORD, N.C. >> Alex Bow­man be­lieves Dale Earn­hardt Jr. helped his rac­ing ca­reer once al­ready when he gave him a hand­ful of starts with JR Mo­tor­sports. Now side­lined for the year with a con­cus­sion, Earn­hardt also helped Bow­man by rec­om­mend­ing him as a re­place­ment driver at Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports.

“Dale Earn­hardt Jr. saved my ca­reer two years ago when he gave me that chance in the Xfin­ity car,” Bow­man said. “With­out him say­ing, ‘Hey put Alex in it,’ I don’t think that Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports re­ally would have thought of me (for Earn­hardt’s re­place­ment.)”

Earn­hardt’s time on the side­line has given Bow­man a shot to shine in spec­tac­u­lar equip­ment.

He was 10th at Chicago in Earn­hardt’s car, and 14th two weeks ago at New Hamp­shire. Now he’ll start a ca­reer-best sec­ond on Sun­day at Char­lotte Motor Speed­way, where rain and wind from Hur­ri­cane Matthew have post­poned the race orig­i­nally sched­uled for Satur­day night.

Bow­man has no prob­lems wait­ing an ex­tra day.

He had no Sprint Cup plans what­so­ever this sea­son un­til Earn­hardt got injured. Now he’s split­ting Earn­hardt’s car with Jeff Gor­don. What was thought to be a one-race sub­sti­tu­tion has turned into 10 races with one of the top or­ga­ni­za­tions in NASCAR.

Bow­man has gone from the back­side of the garage to the pent­house suite, where he has ac­cess to the best tools, tech­nol­ogy and team­mates.

“It’s very in­ter­est­ing how the garage works — I feel like if you are in one of the back 10 cars you are not re­ally al­most even looked at as a race car driver un­til you do some­thing that you are not sup­posed to do,” he said. “Like if you run bet­ter than you are sup­posed to, you pass some­body you are not sup­posed to or you out-qual­ify some­body you are not sup­posed to. Show­ing up to the race track in a Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports car, I feel like I walk in and I’m viewed dif­fer­ently.

“No­body on the Cup side re­ally knew who I was un­til I out-qual­i­fied Dale Jr. at Rich­mond two years ago and he gave me a shot in his Xfin­ity car. I did some­thing I wasn’t sup­posed to do in the car that I was driv­ing and opened one per­son’s eye that I got an Xfin­ity ride from. You are def­i­nitely viewed dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on what you drive and what you do with it.”

Bow­man drove for BK Rac­ing in 2014 and Tommy Bald­win Rac­ing last year, with zero suc­cess. Al­though he com­pleted more than 90 per­cent of the laps each year, he was a back­marker.

It was catch­ing Earn­hardt’s eye that has led to any op­por­tu­ni­ties for Bow­man, but he read­ily ad­mits he doesn’t know how long this will last.

There are no top Cup rides avail­able, and the best rides in the Xfin­ity Se­ries or Truck Se­ries go to de­vel­op­ment driv­ers and usu­ally re­quire spon­sor­ship dol­lars.

Bow­man would love to drive a fourth Xfin­ity car for JR Mo­tor­sports next year but doesn’t think that will hap­pen.

“Un­for­tu­nately the chips didn’t line up in my fa­vor, so I don’t re­ally know what’s go­ing on,” he said. “These races left that we have may be the rest of my Cup ca­reer.

You never re­ally know what the fu­ture holds. Not hav­ing any­thing set in stone, the one thing I said I was go­ing to do through­out all these races was to make the most of it and to have the most fun I pos­si­bly could.

“I’m not go­ing to let the pres­sure kill me.”

Al­though Bow­man is only 23, Rick Hen­drick has al­ready cast his lot with 18-year-old Wil­liam By­ron, who will be the Hen­drick de­vel­op­ment driver in the full-time Xfin­ity Se­ries car for JR Mo­tor­sports next sea­son.

“He’s their de­vel­op­ment guy,” Bow­man said. “I would like to think that hope­fully I’m that (next) guy, but we’ll just kind of have to wait and see. You never know what is go­ing to hap­pen in the next cou­ple of years and who is go­ing to de­cide to do what.”

CHUCK BUR­TON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A crew mem­ber hauls tires through the NASCAR Xfin­ity garage at Char­lotte Motor Speed­way in Char­lotte, N.C., Fri­day, Oct. 7, 2016. Ac­tiv­i­ties at the track were can­celled for the day due to weather.

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