Bow­man gets a chance to shift up his ca­reer

Fill­ing in for Earn­hardt at Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports a wel­come boost

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - RAVENS GAMEDAY - By Jenna Fryer

CON­CORD, N.C. — Alex Bow­man be­lieves Dale Earn­hardt Jr. helped his rac­ing ca­reer once al­ready when Earn­hardt gave him a hand­ful of starts with JR Mo­tor­sports. Now side­lined for the year with a con­cus­sion, Earn­hardt has helped Bow­man yet again 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 to­day at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way, where rain and wind from Hur­ri­cane Matthew 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 back 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 race­car 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 out­qual­ify some­body you are not sup­posed to. Show­ing up to the race­track 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 out­qual­i­fied 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 no suc­cess. Al­though he com­pleted more than 90 per­cent of the laps each year, he was a back marker.

Catch­ing Earn­hardt’s eye has led to op­por­tu­nity for Bow­man, but he read­ily con­cedes he doesn’t know how long his luck 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 Race to­day in Con­cord, N.C.; lap: 1.5 miles SP DRIVER 1. Kevin Har­vick 2. Alex Bow­man 3. Chase El­liott 4. Kyle Busch 5. Tony Ste­wart 6. AJ All­mendinger 7. Martin Truex Jr. 8. Carl Ed­wards 9. Denny Ham­lin 10. Joey Logano 11. Jim­mie John­son 12. Kasey Kahne 13. Dan­ica Pa­trick 14. Greg Bif­fle 15. Ricky Sten­house Jr. 16. Jamie McMur­ray 17. Matt Kenseth 18. Ryan Blaney 19. Austin Dil­lon 20. Brad Ke­selowski 21. Ryan New­man 22. Michael McDow­ell 23. Kurt Busch 24. Matt DiBenedett­o 25. Kyle Lar­son 26. Chris Buescher 27. Trevor Bayne 28. Paul Me­nard 29. Casey Mears 30. Brian Scott 31. Clint Bowyer 32. Lan­don Cas­sill 33. Aric Almirola 34. David Ra­gan 35. Re­gan Smith 36. Cole Whitt 37. Michael An­nett 38. Jef­frey Earn­hardt 39. Reed Soren­son 40. Josh Wise 4 88 24 18 14 47 78 19 11 22 48 5 10 16 17 1 20 21 3 2 31 95 41 83 42 34 6 27 13 44 15 38 43 23 7 98 46 32 55 30

Mdrive a fourth Xfin­ity car for JR Mo­tor­sports next year but thinks that un­likely.

“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/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A crew mem­ber hauls tires Satur­day through the NASCAR Xfin­ity garage at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way. Rac­ing was post­poned to to­day be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

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