Bowman Sets Sights on Daytona, Redemption in 2024

By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer

Alex Bowman is more than ready for his shot at redemption in the NASCAR Cup Series after a year filled with tribulations both on and off the track amounted to one of the most difficult periods of his life.

For the second-straight season, Bowman failed to complete a full campaign at the sport’s top level due to injury – most recently missing three races after fracturing his vertebrae in a High Limit Racing sprint car accident at Iowa’s 34 Raceway.

From spending his 30th birthday in a hospital bed to the sudden loss of his furry friend Roscoe, Bowman had to endure seemingly never-ending hardships throughout 2023. However, he feels these moments have fueled his fire to succeed and will make him better off all-around.

“Gosh, I just want to go win races and get back to performing how I know I can,” Bowman said “I think just looking at last year as a whole and seeing everything that happened … I think that that year in general is gonna push me to do the best we can this year.

“I think when things are bad, you learn a lot about yourself. Just learning how to push through  and overcome things like that is important. I think it made me better and made our team better and I’m excited to show that this year.”

Bowman gave competitors and fans a sample for what they could expect from him and the No. 48 team to start the season after qualifying fourth and finishing sixth in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition, in what he called a “decent” day. 

With the official start to his ninth full-time campaign coming up in the form of the prestigious Daytona 500, Bowman is hopeful he’ll be able to capitalize on a couple of fast and fiery trends as of recently in his career.

Beginning with qualifying for The Great American Race on February 14, Hendrick Motorsports is going for 10-straight front row starts. Bowman will not only be seeking his seventh consecutive front-row start in the Daytona 500, but his fourth pole in NASCAR’s Super Bowl.

“It’s all Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said. “I wish I could take all the credit for it, but (we’re) gonna do the best we can to make it happen again. Without practice or anything, we don’t really know until we go do it. I’m confident in everybody at HMS between the car shop and the engine shop and everything in between. 

“We’re going to have a good piece and we’ll see how it goes.”

After starting from the pole last year, Bowman picked up a career-best finish at the 2.5-mile superspeedway by placing fifth. Subsequently, he also finished sixth in the regular-season finale at Daytona.

While qualifying up front is a confidence booster that can sometimes limit risks in races like the Daytona 500, what really matters is being calculated enough with your movement in the draft to be in position at the end – something Bowman feels he was finally able to get a better grasp on in 2023.

“I feel like I learned a lot at superspeedways last year in general,” Bowman said. “I’m looking forward to just improving on that a little bit. Continuing to learn at the speedways and trying to execute well all day to be there at the end. 

“The last one stands out to me. I kind of gave Talladega (Superspeedway) away a little bit. 

“Just trying to put myself in the right position and know what moves I need to make and don’t need to make, so I’m there at the end and I’m in position to try to win those places. I’m looking forward to the 500 with kind of that little bit of added knowledge from last year.”

Typically, after the season-opener at Daytona, Bowman and his team have found ways to assert themselves as one of the fastest teams in the garage. Last year, the No. 48 crew opened the season with six top-10s in seven starts – half of those being top-fives.

Following a breakout year from teammate William Byron in 2023, Bowman’s eighth season in Cup could remain one of the biggest “what ifs,” should he not have broken his back after 10 starts. 

Regardless, it extended a trend that’s followed Bowman throughout his career with Hendrick Motorsports – getting off to a hot start, only to fizzle out towards the halfway point. Obviously, what happened to him can be deemed an obscure occurrence, but it doesn’t shift the narrative. 

“I think for me, really just trying to learn how to maintain (speed) throughout the course of the season has been the hardest thing for me,” Bowman said. “I think the reset, the offseason, and being able to be fresh and ready to go is always really good. It’s kind of hard to maintain that intensity over such a long season.”

As Bowman seeks sustained success from the start of the year into the halfway point of the grueling 36-race schedule, the task at hand will become harder for every driver in 2024. Directly after the Daytona 500, teams will head to Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has since developed superspeedway properties following a repave and reconfiguration in 2022. 

Luckily for Bowman, he’ll be able to lean on added knowledge and comfortability with superspeedway racing, which can potentially put him in a favorable position when the Cup Series heads to Las Vegas for the third race of the season.

“I mean, I hope we get off to a good start,” Bowman said. “The schedule kind of makes it harder with two speedways right off the bat. You don’t want those two races to make or break your season, and obviously on paper, it can make it look worse or better than it really is. We’ll see how we stack up and then get to the regular work after that.”

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