Strong restart puts a Bow(man) on Sunday’s Cup win in Las Vegas – Sports Illustrated
NOTE: Full results and updated driver standings follow below this story.
Some things take time to germinate and grow. Such is the case with Alex Bowman.
When the Tucson, Arizona native first advanced to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2014 with BK Racing, he was – well, let’s face it – horrible. In 36 starts, he had just one showing higher than 22nd place, that coming in the summer race at Daytona (finished 13th).
In his sophomore Cup season in 2015, competing for Tommy Baldwin Jr. Racing, Bowman had an equally disappointing season. He started ignominiously by failing to qualify for the Daytona 500, and then finished 33rd in the season’s final standings.
In his 35 overall starts that season, it was more of the same from the previous campaign for Bowman, with his best showing being a 16th-place finish in the spring race at Talladega.
There were a lot of rumors about Bowman’s future, mostly less than promising.
But when Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a concussion that would sideline him for the final 18 races of the 2016 season, Bowman was brought in to alternate with Jeff Gordon, earning three top-10 finishes plus a pole in 10 starts.
With the exception of driving for Earnhardt in the non-points Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona prior to the season-opening Daytona 500, Bowman sat out the entire 2017 season, minus a ride.
But then came a huge shock – the most positive shock of Bowman’s career, that is.
When Earnhardt announced early in the 2017 season that he would be retiring at the end of the campaign, his surprising pick to replace him in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was none other than Bowman.
Team owner Rick Hendrick concurred and less than two months later, Bowman was signed to replace Earnhardt starting with the 2018 Cup season.
Earnhardt and Hendrick literally could have picked anyone else to pilot the No. 88, but they chose Bowman. They obviously knew something, as the young driver has continued to improve with each passing season in the HMS camp.
In 2018, his first full season in replacing Earnhardt, while winless, Bowman had three top-5 and 11 top-10 finishes, and qualified for the playoffs (although he finished 16th).
In 2019, Bowman earned his first Cup win, had seven top-5 and 12 top-10 finishes and finished 12th.
In 2020, he had one win, six top-5 and 15 top-10 showings, finishing a career-best sixth in the final standings.
And then came 2021, which also included a switch in car numbers from Earnhardt’s No. 88 to Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48. Bowman won four races, had eight top-5 and 16 top-10 finishes, but due to being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, finished a disappointing 14th in the final standings.
Now, three races into the 2022 season, Bowman once again has qualified for the playoffs, earning his seventh career Cup win in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Here’s perhaps the most telling statistic that illustrates just how good of a …….