Where’s the love for Alex Bowman?
Two races remain in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, so Alex Bowman has two races remaining as substitute driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet — two more races to audition for some ride, somewhere, for 2017. This guy has definitely shown that he deserves to be in a quality ride, somewhere, but will he get one? I’m beginning to lose hope in that.
Prior to signing on as a substitute for NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bowman hadn’t really had a legitimate shot at showing his wares. Well, he did run a limited schedule in a Dale Jr.-owned Xfinity Series ride, but the key word there is “limited.” He’s never had a regular, quality gig in one of NASCAR’s national series. His gig as substitute behind the wheel of the No. 88 hasn’t, really, been regular, as he’s been sharing the ride with Jeff Gordon, but at least he’s had an opportunity to show what he has, and what he has is pretty darn impressive, if you ask me, not that anyone is asking me. But those are just my two cents, so to speak. After all, he has posted a couple of top-10 finishes in his eight-races, so far, and if I’m not mistaken, one of those came while battling the flu. On top of that, without getting caught up in an incident beyond his control, here and there, that top-10 stat might’ve exceeded two. And remember, this is a team with which Bowman joined late in the season and drives for part-time. Imagine what this guy could do in an environment of continuity.
So, what gives? Why can’t this guy get a top-notch ride? Granted, silly season’s not over yet, and not many top-flight rides seem to be up for grabs, but it’s a darn shame Bowman can’t seem to catch a break. Okay, getting the opportunity to show his worth in a Hendrick Motorsports ride is a break, I guess, but that gig’s almost up, and I’m beginning to wonder if Bowman’s going to end up with something to show for it.
Maybe I have a soft spot in my heart for this guy after his unceremonious firing from Tommy Baldwin Racing prior to the start of the 2016 seeason. After all, the guy thought he still had a ride with that team as late as December. Heck, maybe he still thought he was driver of the No. 7 TBR Chevy in 2016, even as late as January. I can’t remember for sure when he was canned. To refresh your memory, after taking publicity shots with the No. 7 well into the offseason, in preparation for a 2016 campaign, he found out via Twitter he had been replaced by Regan Smith. He didn’t even get the courtesy of a private meeting with the boss to learn his fate.
But, admittedly, while I felt for Bowman back then, I didn’t really think of him as a hot commodity. Now, though, I kinda do. But where’s that going to get him? Is he going to start 2017 where he started 2016 — without a ride?
JR Motorsports, co-owned by none other than Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick, come to find out, had a couple of rides available for next year since the team recently announced a couple of driver additions to the team in Michael Annett and William Byron. Where’s the love for Bowman after what he’s done for Earnhardt, Hendrick and company?
Okay, I get going the Byron route. That move is about driver development, as Byron seems to be the next hot thing coming up the pipeline, and face it, the Hendrick Motorsports driver stable is developing some grey hairs here and there, well, except for Chase Elliott, but Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne aren’t getting any younger. Byron is HMS’ future.
But what about the recent Annett hiring? Don’t get me wrong; that question is in no way meant to be a dig at Annett and/or his ability as a race car driver, but has Annett done anything more impressive that Bowman? Bowman was, obviously, available, so why Annett over Bowman? My guess is the call had something or all to do with money. After all, Annett is bringing longtime sponsor Pilot/Flying J over to JRM with him.
I guess some guys just can’t catch a break, no matter what they do, and I guess Bowman is one of those guys. I thought the temporary gig in the No. 88 was his big break, and Bowman has made the best of that break, impressing almost, if not all, the eyes that have been on him. But what’s that going to get him? It’s looking more and more like nothing.
Maybe he needs to go the money route by spending his time outside the car looking for some deep-pocket financial backing. It’s a shame talent isn’t the most important thing all the time anymore.