Defying the Odds

Tucson’s Alex Bowman is racing toward NASCAR success
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
As a teen growing up in Tucson, Alex Bowman faced his fair share of naysayers about his career of choice: racing.
He left Ironwood Ridge High School in Oro Valley to pursue racing and to finish his studies online. But Bowman – who drives the Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 – recently placed 11th at this year’s Daytona 500.
“I was 16 and I finished school online and went racing,” says Bowman, 25. “I was always trying to fool my teacher about why I’m missing class. They weren’t always happy with that.
“Hopefully all the teachers who told me that I should quit this racing thing because it’s taking away from my education are reading this article right now.”
Bowman, who now lives in Mount Ulla, North Carolina, has always been into cars. His dad owns Finishline Collision Repair at River Road and La Cholla Boulevard.
“He got me into cars as a kid,” he says. “I got into quarter midget when I was 6 or 7, and then go-kart and it took off from there. I just fell in love with it.”
Bowman piled up wins driving West Coast sprint cars before a scary crash at a Las Vegas dirt track put him in intensive care and changed his focus to full-bodied stocks – and ultimately NASCAR. In 2011, he was rookie of the year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and racked up two wins in the ARCA Series, winning both races he entered.
At 19 years old, Bowman signed with legendary car owner Roger Penske. In 2012, he posted four ARCA (regional) wins and led 20 percent of the season’s total laps to earn another rookie of the year title. During the same year, he made his first NASCAR national series start in the Xfinity Series at Chicagoland Speedway.
To continue moving up the ranks, Bowman accepted an offer from BK Racing to drive in the premier NASCAR Cup Series, making his debut in the 2014 Daytona 500. He went on to start 71 Cup events over the 2014 and 2015 seasons for BKR and Tommy Baldwin Racing, which competed each week against larger multicar teams with deeper resources. Bowman also raced twice in the 2014 Xfinity Series and once in the 2015 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team, which is affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports.
He received his break in 2016 when an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. called.
Bowman drove just three races in 2017, but racked up three top-10 finishes. After a seven-month layoff from competitive racing, he returned in the October Xfinity Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway to lead 32 laps and record his first career NASCAR national series victory. In addition to his handful of races in 2017, Bowman served as an integral part of the simulation and on-track testing programs for Hendrick Motorsports and manufacturer Chevrolet as he prepared to join crew chief and the No. 88 team.
In 2018, he became the third-youngest driver to win the Daytona 500 pole. Even without a seat available in its four-car stable, Hendrick Motorsports signed Bowman in October 2016 to keep him in the fold. The situation changed the following April when Earnhardt announced his retirement. In July, Hendrick Motorsports officially signed Bowman to join the Ives-led No. 88 Chevrolet team full time beginning in 2018.
He carries a 20-race majority sponsorship from Nationwide with additional primary support from Axalta Coating Systems, LLumar and Valvoline.
“It’s tough to make it in the sport, especially without a big sponsor behind you,” he says. “I really lucked my way into a lot of situations to end up at Hendrick Motorsports. It’s neat to get to do this. There are only 40 of us who get to race on Sundays. It’s pretty cool.”
Bowman is looking forward to returning to the Grand Canyon State to race for his fans, family and friends.
“Anytime we go to Phoenix I’m always looking forward to it,” he says. “In a perfect world, I’d like to take first there, but it’s always a joy.”