DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After two years of limited activity, Alex Bowman is back in a full-time ride and ready to go racing in the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
“It’s been really surreal for probably the past seven or eight months,’’ Bowman said Saturday morning before getting into the car to practice later in the day. “Now to unload and to kind of be ready and be like ‘Man I’m driving a race car today’ is really special. It’s a dream come true for me.
“Very thankful for the opportunity and really just looking forward to getting on the race track, seeing how our race car drives, seeing how our speed is and kind of seeing how the cars drive with the new rules package and going from there.”
Bowman had been without a full-time ride since 2015. He competed in nine Xfinity races in 2016 for JR Motorsports and 10 races in Cup for Dale Earnhardt Jr., as Earnhardt recovered from a concussion. Last year, Bowman drove in two Xfinity races and one Camping World Truck Series event. He spent his time in the Chevrolet simulator.
Of all the hours in there, Bowman noted they didn’t run the superspeedways, so his experience remains limited in restrictor-plate racing.
He’s leaned on teammate Jimmie Johnson, along with Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt. Bowman and Earnhardt talked Friday night about how to handle Speedweeks and Earnhardt provided some drafting tips.
“He gave me some drafting tips and superspeedway racing tips that I’m going to try to keep to myself,’’ Bowman said. “He has been great to lean on and always has been for me, so very thankful to have his help.”
Even with his limited experience, Bowman ran for Hendrick in last year’s Clash and at Talladega in 2016 for Earnhardt.
“I can’t wait to get on the race track with how fast our Camaro ZL1’s are going to be,’’ Bowman said. “And having three great teammates to work with. I ran the No. 88 at Talladega in 2016. I think we were running second or third and crashed with a couple of laps to go. Definitely, seen how fast the cars are. We’ve just not to crash with a couple of laps to go this time.”
He also learned the different dynamic of running in the front compared to the middle of the pack in those races.
“It is kind of interesting, the mid-pack to back-of-the-pack guys, if they get behind a good car it doesn’t really matter who is driving it, they are going to push you,’’ Bowman said. “They are not going to hang you out. Whereas you get to the front, and it’s cutthroat. Anybody will hang you out. Nobody wants to really push you if they don’t have to.
“It’s definitely interesting to see how the characteristics of the pack change through the pack and just the characteristics of getting pushed by Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin versus a mid-pack guy who is going to stick with you. Definitely interesting to see and interesting to learn. I think I can definitely take learning experiences from that race and also from The Clash and use them to be more successful next Sunday.”