Alex Bowman says he’s a living example of why you should never give up on your dreams.
The NASCAR driver, who took over for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this year as the driver of the legendary No. 88 car, has seen his career flourish recently, but this career peak came just after a devastating low.
“I was basically fired by my race team, but that led me to be available to be hired by Hendrick [Motorsports] to drive their simulator a few months later,” Bowman said. “I went from having no race team to driving the Hendrick simulator to driving No. 88 for Dale Earnhardt Jr. You really never know what’s around the corner. People always say ‘Never give up,’ and [my story] is a perfect example of that.”
Now driving No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 full-time for Hendrick Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series, Bowman opened the 2018 season by winning the pole at the Daytona 500 in February. We slowed Bowman down long enough to discuss what it’s like to race for one of the most-respected teams in the country, as well as chat about his love for his prized 1,000hp Corvette.
GG: If you weren’t racing, what career do you think you’d have right now?
Alex Bowman: I am pretty sure I’d be back in Tucson, working at my dad’s body shop if I hadn’t gotten into racing. I grew up with that, it’s what I know.
GG: You are living the dream of many racers right now: driving for Hendrick Motorsports in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88! What’s that like?
Alex Bowman: Sometimes it’s hard to believe! [A few years ago] I was ready to apply for colleges, thinking ‘Well…this racing thing didn’t really work out!’ It was two weeks before the Daytona 500, I’d been let go by my race team and I had no time to find [another race team] before the event. It ended up being a good thing, though, because I was hired to drive the [Hendrick] simulator because everyone else was down in Daytona. That turned into a regular job for me, driving the simulator. I got a call from Dale Earnhardt Jr., saying he was hurt and wanted me to drive No. 88 for him. The next year I had a few offers to go back to full-time racing but I really wanted to drive for someone like Hendrick so I sat on the sidelines and turned a lot of things down. When Dale announced his retirement, we worked out a deal and now I drive No. 88!
GG: You’ve seen your share of nasty accidents. Which one still sticks in your mind?
Alex Bowman: I got hurt pretty bad in 2010 midget racing on a dirt track in Vegas, so that one does for sure. Another crazy thing that sticks out is when I was in Richmond and I saw Michael McDowell hit the safety truck [in 2015]. I was behind Michael when that happened and it was really scary. Luckily no one got hurt, but you don’t see that very often.
GG: If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Alex Bowman: I’d love to spend more time with my dogs. I have Rosco who’s five and Finn who’s a year and a half. Rosco is used to me traveling because when I was racing full-time before I was gone a lot. Finn is a little more freaked out that I’m gone all the time, because I didn’t travel much when I first got him.
GG: What’s the hardest part about being a racecar driver?
Alex Bowman: It’s the schedule. You have three full days at the track, then one day at home for recovery. Tuesday is for meetings, Wednesday is usually for appearances. By Thursday you are traveling again, so you really only have one day at home to get your stuff together. It’s been an adjustment for me this year, but it’s great. It definitely beats having a ‘real’ job!
GG: Now that you’re driving the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy Camaro ZL1, what’s your relationship like with Nationwide Insurance?
Alex Bowman: Nationwide had been on the 88 car with Earnhardt Jr., but I started a relationship with them in 2013. We had Nationwide Children’s Hospital on a car I drove and ran in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. They are a lot of car people, which is why they are so great. They do it all – classic car insurance, auto insurance, financial services; it’s really cool to be part of a brand that does so much for their community.
GG: You own a 1000hp 2010 Corvette ZR1. How fast have you gone in it?
Alex Bowman: We haven’t really gone very fast with it yet. It’s been a street car so far. I have a grudge race planned with Mr. Hendrick. We’re going to drag race it and see what it will do. I drive it all the time, and there aren’t many 1,000hp cars you can daily drive!
GG: Who in the industry do you look up to?
Alex Bowman: My boss, Rick Hendrick, for sure. He’s so passionate about the car industry and everything he’s involved in. He’s a car guy who has every kind of car – and it doesn’t matter if it’s a $2 million car – he drives them all. It’s cool to share that love of cars with him. He has all these cool cars, When Mr. H. talks, everyone listens, and he’s very involved in everything. I really admire that.
GG: Race car driver Arie Luyendyk Jr. just did a stint as “The Bachelor.” Is there any reality TV in your future?
Alex Bowman: That’s definitely not my thing! I am pretty quiet and I keep to myself, so I don’t think I’m cut out to be ‘The Bachelor’ or do reality TV! It’s weird that there’s a race car driving Bachelor though. I don’t know Arie from racing; he’s more on the Indy car side of things, but it’s still weird.
GG: What’s one personality trait someone has to have in order to be successful in NASCAR?
Alex Bowman: You have to be mentally tough and really persistent. This sport is hard and humbling. You can be on the top one week and at the bottom the next. You can’t let other people or your finishes beat you down or you’ll be miserable. You have to be incredibly tough, mentally, to do this job.