Alex Bowman carried two years of regret between NASCAR Cup wins

The Phoenix native overcame a concussion and broken back to break through for first win of season

NASCAR: Grant Park 165
Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve got a couple bottles that were bought early in the ’22 that were like the next win we’re going to drink these, and they’ve been sitting on the counter way too fucking long. Everybody that said I couldn’t win and don’t deserve to be at Hendrick Motorsports and all that bullshit, cheers to you.”

That was literally a mic drop moment at the end of the race winning press conference for Alex Bowman in the aftermath of his triumph in the second NASCAR Cup Series Chicago Street Race.

If anyone warranted such a mic drop, it’s Bowman, given everything that has transpired since his last victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March 2022. There was the concussion suffered in September of that year and then the broken back suffered in a Sprint Car crash last spring.

He’s been healthy to start this season, and while there has been a great deal of consistency, a lengthy winless streak reached 80 until Bowman held off Tyler Reddick on Sunday in the Windy City.

It wasn’t just that he held off Reddick, it’s that he did so on blistered wet tires in drying conditions as he was being pursued by one of the best modern road course racers in the game. There was also the pass he needed to make, on equal tires, on road racing ace Joey Hand in the RFK Racing No. 60.

Bowman is signed through 2026 but he concedes awareness that his job security is constantly a matter of public question, even if not privately within the halls of Hendrick Motorsports.

“I broke my back, had a brain injury, and we’ve kind of sucked ever since, and … you start to second-guess if you’re ever going to get a chance to win a race again,” Bowman said.

He was the only driver within the flagship Chevrolet organization to have not yet won this season and that often superseded the 11 top-10s he has recorded, good for second most in the discipline.  

“I think you need to win races whenever you’re at HMS. But certainly, nobody has made me feel like I’m on the hot seat. There’s never been a single conversation with a single person that has questioned anything to do with that at all. It’s all been, what do you need, how can we help you, how can we support the team.

“That’s the great part about Hendrick Motorsports is whatever the noise is outside, everybody inside is never going to tear each other down. They’re always going to be supportive.”

Bowman is a really popular figure inside the company, with his peers respecting the unorthodox path he took to reach one of the top seats in the Cup Series in the first place, having basically accepted a reserve driver role within the company years ago until a seat opened up.

He never had the money to buy a ride and simply did whatever it took to be deserving of such a chance.

Thus, when he broke his back last year racing a Sprint Car completely unrelated to his NASCAR duties, that is what left him the most disappointed in himself — that he let down the company that invested so much into him.

“I remember when I got to the hospital in Iowa sitting there, like, knowing that something was wrong and the doctor came in and he’s like, ‘I have great news, your neck is totally fine but you broke your back,’ and just feeling like I let my whole team down, like I let Ally down and Mr. Hendrick down.

“Like the concussion stuff, we blow a tire running a Cup car, that’s so different than breaking your back going and doing your hobby, right? That felt pretty self-inflicted and I spent my 30th birthday in the hospital in Burlington, Iowa. It was not a lot of fun.

“That was tough. I felt like I let them down. But the first thing Mr. Hendrick said is, ‘we’ll get through it and whatever you need we’re going to get you help with,’ and everybody was so incredibly supportive.

So Bowman has just been driven ever since to reward that support and loyalty with what came on Sunday. That’s especially true given two years of regret he had carried with him.

“Gosh, the last Cup race I won, I remember we were in Vegas and we had won a lot pretty recently to that and we all landed at like 4:00, and every other race we had celebrated and had so much fun with the team and we were all kind of like,’ nah, it’s too late, we don’t need to celebrate, we’ll celebrate the next one or whatever,’ and I have regretted that ever since, obviously, so that is not going to happen tonight.

But as a human being, I’m just a dude trying to do my job the best I possibly can, and I see everything that gets said about me. So to be able to overcome what I’ve gone through and to end up back here, it feels really good.

“I didn’t need it. There’s certainly a lot in my life that I don’t need but I’m just appreciative of it and everyone.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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