As all NASCAR fans know by now, the series has begun its three-week break from racing due to NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The break leaves plenty of free time for fans and drivers alike to take vacations, watch the Games, participate in other hobbies, and just do something other than NASCAR for a few weeks in late July.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson is well-known for tearing up the short track scene while he’s not racing the 5 car in the Cup Series, but Larson is far from the only Hendrick driver involved in the worlds of midget and sprint car racing. Chase Elliott competed at Red Dirt Raceway in Oklahoma this past month, and another driver has a full schedule planned for the Olympics off-weeks.
Alex Bowman, driver of the 48 car for HMS, got his start racing quarter midgets in Arizona and California in the early 2000s. While he moved over to stock cars early on and doesn’t have nearly the dirt experience of the likes of Larson and C-Bell, Bowman has been involved in building midgets for his own team, Alex Bowman Racing (ABR), for the past couple of years, starting their social media accounts in 2020.
Bowman’s longtime friend CJ Leary and Alex himself have both raced midgets in the Chili Bowl Nationals, including during Alex’s time as an owner in early 2020. He described the foray to racingnews.com: “Last year got pretty difficult between running the Race of Champions with CJ and me running, not having a crew chief, me crew chiefing CJ – it was just a lot of work for me to drive one of the cars and crew chief the other car.” Leary then piloted a USAC midget for ABR throughout 2020 and Bowman began to focus his efforts on working on the cars, deciding not to race in the 2021 Chili Bowl.
Due to what Alex has described as “quarantine boredom”, he took on the project of building a winged-sprint car. In late fall 2020, Bowman posted videos to Instagram of Leary and himself testing the car, Alex’s first ever laps in a winged-sprint, at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Initially, Bowman insisted that he definitely would not be driving the sprint car in 2021, that he was just testing it for fun. But early this year, ABR’s 2021 schedule dropped and included Alex as one of the drivers of the 55 car, slotted to race during the NASCAR Olympics break.
“That’s why I do that deal—to really just have fun and no expectations,” he said this past winter, “I have a really, really good group of people that help me on those cars… we’ve never lost a party when we go dirt racing, so that’s what we’re going to go do.”
Throughout 2021, drivers CJ Leary and Alex’s friend and personal trainer Josh Wise have raced for ABR in various series. Leary has raced the 410 Wing Sprint car in various World of Outlaws races, while Wise has driven an asphalt midget at Lucas Oil Speedway, finishing second in the feature, and plans to race there again in early August.
Alex’s stint in the car was kicked off by a July 19 announcement of his Cup Series sponsor, Ally Bank, signing on for his winged-sprint races this month. Bowman’s races are as follows:
Thursday, July 22nd: Circle City Raceway, Indianapolis, IN
Friday, July 23rd: Attica Raceway, Attica, OH (Streaming on DIRTVision)
Saturday, July 24th: Fremont Speedway, Fremont, OH
Sunday, July 25th: Tri City Speedway, Franklin, PA
Friday, July 30th: Attica Raceway, Attica, OH (Streaming on DIRTVision)
Saturday, July 31st: Fremont Speedway, Fremont, OH
Sunday, August 1st: Tri City Speedway, Franklin, PA
When asked why he wants to run winged-sprints specifically on The Loudpedal Podcast this week, Bowman said, “The thing I’m seeking is to make myself a better race car driver… you have to worry about a lot of the same things you have to in a Cup car, with dirty air and how the air works,” describing how driving sprints translate more to NASCAR racing than midgets do. He even noted that “it makes Kyle (Larson) a better race car driver on Sundays… and I’m doing all I can to step my game up as well.”
Bowman was also asked if the addition of Larson to the team has made owner Rick Hendrick allow his drivers to pursue more racing outside of NASCAR. He answered, “I think Kyle helped that, but at the same time I think we’ve all watched Jeff Gordon fall back in love with dirt racing… I think he (Hendrick) sees how important it is to us, as drivers and as people, but also he sees how much better it makes guys like Kyle and Christopher (Bell), and how, honestly, I think it can help us on Sundays. It’s definitely a nice change, I’m all for it.”
On July 20, Bowman posted a video to Instagram of himself running laps in the winged-sprint, captioned, “Going to be calling the next two weeks the What The Hell Did I Get Myself Into Tour™”, leaning into his lack of experience and highlighting his focus on racing to learn and have fun.
For more information on ABR’s season, follow @alexbowmanracing on Instagram and check out https://alexbowmanracing.com/. The races that will be broadcast, labeled above, will be streaming on the DIRTVision subscription service.
Quotes from racingnews.com interviews and The Loudpedal Podcast, Ep. 44. Featured image courtesy of Ally Racing on Twitter.