Four years and six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races into his career at the top of the stock car pyramid, Alex Bowman had to check up when asked how Texas Motor Speedway and Fort Worth compared to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona.
“Texas and Tucson?” he mused. “I don’t know if Texas reminds me of Tucson at all; I feel like Tucson is quite a bit different. But, you know, they have the whole Tex-Mex thing out here. In Tucson and Phoenix, it’s all authentic Mexican food. I’d rather have the authentic stuff back home, for sure.
“But I’d love to win a race here. It’s an interesting racetrack in just how they kind of reshaped everything. Turns 1 and 2 are really awkward and I don’t feel like anybody gets real comfortable down there. It’s just real narrow. The groove hasn’t really widened out yet and it’s kind of along the bottom of the track and it’s pretty hard to race guys. I think we can definitely perform if everything works out for us. We definitely haven’t started out the year the way we wanted to, but hopefully we’ve made some progress on the cars and we should be pretty good here.”
Bowman figures NASCAR’s reconfigured rules will add a few more jokers to the deck, too.
“I think it’s going to be different again this weekend again with the new rules package,” he noted. “They sprayed VHT down everywhere, so that’s going to change things quite a bit as well. Hopefully, we have a good one on Sunday afternoon.”
Bowman needs a good one as the results he and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team have posted up thus far in ’19 have been wobbly at best — two 11th places as good as it’s gotten.
“We are definitely not where we want to be,” Bowman conceded. “We’ve performed pretty poorly for the most part. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it is not from a lack of effort. All of our guys have been working their butts off. There have been a lot of late nights in the shop, so hopefully we get it turned around quick. We have a new race car for us here in Texas and hopefully it’s a good one.
“If we knew exactly where we were falling short, we’d fix it. It’s been tough; it’s been probably two years now of being short of where we want to be. We’re continuing to work hard at it and I think we’re getting closer. We ran really well last weekend at Martinsville, so that was encouraging.”
Frustrated yet undaunted, Bowman and Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and William Byron are throwing everything the operation has at hitting critical mass ASAP.
“We all really get along well,” he said. “I think all four of us bring different things to the table and we can all lean on each other quite a bit.”
And does that No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran for so long get a bit heavy on the sides of Bowman’s Chevrolet at times?
“I don’t think so. You can’t see the number from the seat and it’s not a huge deal to me. I think it’s really cool to be here driving for Hendrick Motorsports, but I’m not really worried about who used to drive the car or anything like that, I just want to perform the best I can with it.
“We just need to continue to improve. It’s not going to come all at once and it’s going to be a lot of hard work. If we can get a good solid top 10 this weekend and continue to gain on the rest of the field, that’s really what we need to do right now. You want to go and win every race and do everything that you can, but at the same time, we’re a ways off right now and it’s just going to take time to continue gaining on it.
Bowman and his crew chief Greg Ives have also melded together quite well as the 88 car goes through the asphalt acid test of development.
“Greg has been great to work with — both of us are really competitive and not happy with where we are at,” Bowman said. “We’re both highly motivated to get better all the time and I think that’s a good thing. Neither one of us is content with what we are doing and we’re always trying to figure out ways to get better. Our goals are just to go win some races. That’s always going to be my goal. I think if we can get our cars pointed in the right direction and continue to get better, by the end of the year we need to be contending for race wins.”
Despite all the frustrations for the No. 88 group, Bowman’s vibe is one of quiet confidence and patience. Almost like he knows some things the others don’t….