Alex Bowman ‘baffled,’ ‘puzzled’ by release from Tommy Baldwin Racing

(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
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Alex Bowman said he has “no hard feelings” toward Tommy Baldwin Racing, but is “baffled” and “puzzled” why the Sprint Cup team he drove for in 2015 released him without warning 30 days before the Daytona 500.

He was released Thursday morning and the team hired veteran Regan Smith hours later to drive its No. 7 Chevrolet. Bowman found out about his lack of a job on social media.

“I went to the gym yesterday morning on my way to the shop to go work on my midget and I refreshed Twitter and Twitter says I’m fired,” Bowman told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” Friday morning.

Tommy Baldwin Racing issued a statement in response to Bowman’s comment: “The circumstances surrounding Alex’s release via social media was unfortunate and certainly unintentional. The culture of doing business in motorsports has become more complex and involves many parties such as agents, business managers, attorneys and sponsors. A comment in passing may be overheard and subsequently conveyed to the media.”

Bowman, 22, said he had conversations with team owner Tommy Baldwin on Monday and late Wednesday night and “everything was good.”

As it turned out, Smith told SiriusXM Thursday night that in a “wild few days” Baldwin contacted him Tuesday, a deal was made on Wednesday and then finalized Thursday when the news was announced.

Bowman said he has not spoken with Baldwin since the announcements were made.

“I guess you’ll have that in big-time auto racing,” Bowman said. “I know the sport’s changing a lot and a lot of business models are changing. Tommy felt like he needed to make a change. If he feels he needs to make a change and that I’m not the right person to be in that, then I shouldn’t be there. If you don’t have any faith in your driver, there’s no reason to go to the racetrack.

“There’s no hard feelings, it’s a business and it’s what has to happen and it’s the way this deal works. It’s pretty ruthless, but that’s just the way it is. It’s big-time auto racing.”

TBR cut ties with Bowman a month after signing a multi-year sponsorship deal with Toy State. The announcement of the deal was made at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with Bowman in attendance.

“I feel like I was alongside Tommy for a lot of it,” Bowman said, recalling how he and Baldwin met with Toy State executives at the company’s American headquarters in Boston. “I feel I became real close with a lot of people up there … I tried to reach out to all of them yesterday to say thank you to them. They did a lot for me last year and definitely consider them good friends.”

Bowman, who finished 33rd in the Sprint Cup point standings in 2015, will focus on the job he knows he has in 2016 – competing in nine Xfinity Series races for JR Motorsports.

“I’m really looking forward to my nine races with JR Motorsports and doing what I moved to North Carolina to do, which is focusing on winning races,” Bowman said. “That’s the most important thing to me right now. I don’t know, maybe I’ll go run my midget some and do some stuff like that. But my main focus is those nine races and do everything I can to prove there’s a reason I should be here.”

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.

 

Could Talladega open door for a record 20th winner?

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Talladega Superspeedway is known for fast speeds, huge drafting packs, sensational wrecks and tight finishes.

On Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC), it could be the site of an unexpected record.

Nineteen different drivers have won Cup races this season, tying a record. If a new winner shows up in Talladega victory lane Sunday, it will mark the first time in the sport’s history that 20 drivers have won races in a single season.

One of the remarkable things about that possibility is that the driver who has far and away the best record at Talladega among active drivers is among the group still looking for a win in 2022. That’s Brad Keselowski, who has won six times at NASCAR’s biggest track. No other active driver has more than three. (Keselowski is tied for second on the all-time Talladega win list with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt tops that list with 10).

Talladega and Daytona tend to reject repeat winners. The past nine races at the two tracks have been won by nine different drivers.

Other seasonal non-winners who could break through at Talladega:

Ryan BlaneyBlaney’s only win this year is in the All-Star Race, so he’s still looking for his first points win while continuing to chase the championship. He won at Talladega in 2019 and 2020.

Martin Truex Jr. — Superspeedways have been a pox on Truex’s career. In 70 races at Talladega and Daytona, he has failed to win.

Aric Almirola — In what has been a disappointing season, Almirola’s best finish is a fifth — twice. He won at Talladega in 2018 but hasn’t had a top 10 in his last four runs there.

Michael McDowell — McDowell’s best finish at Talladega is a third, but he is usually very competitive in the Talladega and Daytona drafts, winning the 2021 Daytona 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Stenhouse won at Talladega in 2017 and usually is a factor in the draft.

Harrison Burton — Burton has had a tough rookie season, but the peculiarities of the Talladega draft should play in his favor. The No. 21 team’s next win will be its 100th.

Justin Haley — Haley has no top-10 runs in five Talladega starts, but he showed potential last week with a third-place finish at Texas.

Corey LaJoie — LaJoie has started nine Cup races at Talladega and has led exactly one lap. His best finish is a seventh.

Noah Gragson — Gragson, the star of this Xfinity season, is in the No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman out because of concussion-like symptoms. In the Talladega draft he could be a threat.