By the time Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway ends, Alex Bowman will be ready to run another race: from his car to his bed.
When the checkered flag drops at Miami, Bowman and the rest of his Cup counterparts will have competed in three full-length races in just eight days.
The streak started last Sunday with a 500-mile race at Atlanta, followed by a 500-lap race Wednesday at Martinsville, and will conclude with the 400-mile race at Miami.
“I think this week has been probably been the most grueling of my career,” Bowman said Friday in a media teleconference. “The recovery process has definitely changed, the workout process during the week has changed quite a bit.
“But this week, with 500 miles at Atlanta, two days to turn around and go to Martinsville for 500 laps where it’s super-hot – we have right side windows in short track cars now, so there’s no air flow – it was the hottest I’ve ever been in my entire life in a race car on Wednesday night.
“That was really tough, lost a ton of weight on Wednesday night. Trying to put that back on for Sunday is difficult, trying to get rehydrated for Sunday is difficult. The previous couple of weeks, I would have told you no, everything is good and it’s no problem. But this week has been a tough one.”
The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet won at Fontana shortly before the COVID-19 hiatus. When NASCAR returned to racing, he finished second in the first race back (Darlington).
He struggled in the next four races: 18th in the second Darlington race, 19th and 31st at Charlotte and 37th at Bristol.
But Bowman seems back on track with a 12th-place finish at Atlanta and sixth at Martinsville.
“As far as how things are going for our team and how things have gone this year, I don’t necessarily think things are coming easier,” Bowman said. “We’re working harder than ever, I’m working harder than ever on and off the race track and doing everything I can to be prepared each and every week.
“But I think our on-track product has been better for our race team. We’ve led more laps this year than in previous years. We’ve thrown some races away, for sure. I think the second Charlotte was a race that I threw away single-handedly and I’ve been pretty frustrated with that ever since then.”
Bowman believes his finish at Martinsville could be a significant turning point.
“When we have fast race cars each and every week, there’s always next week and I feel like that’s been a thing that’s really giving us a lot of confidence,” Bowman said. “We went to a race track that we were absolutely horrendous at last year (finished 14th and 30th in 2019) on Wednesday night – going to Martinsville – and we ran sixth.
“We had a really great race car, so I think we’re improving in every area. I just need to do a little better job putting complete races together. But I think things are definitely coming together.”
Sunday’s race marks the first time since 2002 that NASCAR has not raced at Miami on the season-ending and championship-deciding weekend.
“I think the on-track stuff will be really similar, it’s just kind of that off-track, last day of school-type feel that it probably won’t have and will be a little different,” Bowman said.
Following Sunday’s race, Bowman and the rest of the Cup Series has a nearly seven-day reprieve to rest and recover from this week before action resumes June 21 at the largest and one of the most difficult tracks in the sport, Talladega Superspeedway next Sunday.
Although there was one Cup practice session scheduled for next Saturday afternoon, NASCAR decided Saturday to eliminate the June 20 session at Talladega after consulting teams.
“I’m a big fan of this no-practice thing, I’m really enjoying it,” Bowman said a day before NASCAR’s decision was announced. “I feel like we run about the same and gives me less time to dial us out for the race.
“I’m all for no practice. Obviously, the rule changes, I think we’ll all be able to adapt to that really quickly and the teams will do a really good job of having the cars prepared how they need to be for that event and I’m all good for it.”
But first, Bowman has to stay alert and awake in Miami: “I’m ready to go, should be a good one for us.”
Man, that was a hot one pic.twitter.com/zD6oDLCSkv
— Alex Bowman (@AlexBowman88) June 11, 2020