Alex Bowman is still unsure when he’ll return to NASCAR Cup Series competition but hopes a doctor visit this week, including a new x-ray, will provide some clarity.
“I’m obviously mobile,” Bowman said Sunday at Darlington Raceway. “Super-fortunate that the injury wasn’t any worse than it was. Obviously, a lot of people have had that flat landing in a sprint car and have been hurt much worse than I was. So I’ll heal up and come back when I can.”
Bowman was injured on April 25 during a sprint car race at 34 Raceway in Iowa. The Hendrick Motorsports driver suffered a fractured vertebra and was initially sidelined for three to four weeks. Josh Berry has been driving the No. 48 Chevrolet in his absence.
“I knew I hurt,” Bowman said of the crash. “It hurt a lot, but I was like, I can move everything, so in my head, if you can move everything, then you’re just tweaked up or whatever. Like when you throw your back out. But when I got back to my trailer, I couldn’t get my fire suit off or move much and realized how much pain I was in. My plan was to get home and get checked out, but it pretty quickly became ‘get to a hospital in Iowa and get checked out there’.”
Because the fracture is so high up his spine, Bowman has not been wearing a brace, and there are no spinal cord injuries. He has able to get back in the gym, which has been the extent of his therapy.
“I would say the most painful thing for me is laughing, coughing, sneezing, or trying to sleep,” Bowman said. “Laying down hurts pretty bad. Standing up and walking around is not so bad. I’ve been able to walk the whole time, so that’s been nice. I’ve kind of kept myself busy.
“This week, I was able to get back in the gym a little, which was really good because not working out for a couple of weeks is like the worst thing in the world for me. They have these, like, hair bands that pump up around your muscles, so you can work out with really lightweight and still get a really good workout from it. So, I was doing curls with like five-pounders. Typically, I do 10s, so five was a good workout for me.”
If he had to drive the car today, Bowman said it would probably hurt when the jack drops from a pit stop. He hasn’t been in the simulator and thinks he could, but would expect discomfort when he’d have to pull the seatbelts tight.
Bowman had the best average finish in the NASCAR Cup Series and briefly led the point standings before being sidelined. Missing the events at Dover Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway was particularly tough since those tracks are statistically strong for him, and he knows he’s missing out on valuable points.
In the last three weeks, Bowman has fallen to 17th in the standings. The Cup Series runs the non-points race at North Wilkesboro Speedway this weekend before visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 at the end of the month.
“It sucks. It sucks pretty bad,” Bowman said of not racing. “But it’s pretty self-inflicted. It was my choice to go sprint car racing, and I knew what I was signing up for. It really sucks being out of the race car, but everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has been super-supportive, as well as everybody at Ally. It definitely sucks to not be in the car, though.”