MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
BIG MACHINE VODKA 400 AT THE BRICKYARD
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
SEPTEMBER 8, 2018
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 AXALTA CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed making this year’s Playoff field, his relationship with Mr. Hendrick, the path he took to getting in the No. 88 Camaro ZL1 and many other topics. Full Transcript:
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THIS POSITION OF VERY LIKELY BEING IN THE PLAYOFFS IN YOUR FIRST FULL SEASON WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?
“Yeah, I think it’s no secret it’s been a rough year for us and for all of Hendrick Motorsports, but we are still in contention for the Playoffs, so that is cool to be a part of. Vastly different than anything else I’ve done in my career or any other position I’ve been in in the Cup Series. It’s pretty vulnerable spot coming to Indy with three guys who have won here behind you in points that haven’t won yet, but you know, I think we can get the job done just as good as they can. I’m excited. I think it would be a great thing to be a part of the Playoffs and hopefully we are in it and we can do from there.”
IF YOU HAVE NO PRACTICE DOES THAT HURT YOU MORE THAN OTHERS SINCE YOU HAVEN’T RACED HERE MUCH AND YOU HAVE MORE TO RACE FOR THAN MOST?
“To be honest with you, it’s interesting because yes, I haven’t raced here in a couple of years. I tested here last year in the wheel force car, but I really feel like we tend to unload pretty close and there are quite a few teams that unload a little bit off and kind of have to catch up and we seem to run better when the tracks aren’t rubbered up for whatever reason. So, I’m all for just sending it to the race. I think that might actually be better for us. But, we will just have to wait and see. Obviously, the weather is a little interesting. I think we have some floaties that we might attached the car, maybe a rudder in the back, we can all take a vote on rain tires, but it’s going to be interesting for sure if we get any practice or not. I think it will…shoot it might make it a great race for the fans.”
OBVIOUSLY, IT’S GOING TO TAKE SOME WEIRD CIRCUMSTANCES FOR YOU NOT TO BE IN THE PLAYOFFS. GOING INTO VEGAS IS THERE OPTIMISM THAT YOUR GROUP HAS FOUND SOME SPEED AND CAN MOVE ON PAST ROUND 1?
“Yeah the first Round is going to be tough. Vegas and Richmond were probably our two worst races of the year. And then, I’m not necessarily a road course guy going to the ROVAL. It’s going to be a tough first round, but I think our 1.5-mile program has gotten much strong. I think we can be much better than we were in Vegas. Going to Richmond, I feel like our teammates were pretty strong and we were kind of just off, so we can kind of look at where they were better than us and learn from them and go to the ROVAL and hopefully stay out of trouble and not crash and hopefully advance through there. I think honestly, the first round as far as tracks is going to be the hardest for us, but I think our speed has definitely been improving. Our execution has been improving, we had a rough last week. I have one of the best teams in the business and we are always getting better and I’m excited to see what we have brought to the race track this week and every week going forward.”
CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT IT PERSONALLY OF HOW YOUR CUP CAREER HAS DEVELOPED AND WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO YOU TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?
“It would mean a lot to me to be in the Playoffs right off the bat. Coming from what I came from and kind of going through everything I went through to make the Playoffs in my first year with Hendrick Motorsports would be really special. I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch because I will jinx myself and ‘bad luck Bowman’ will come out and somebody will win on fuel mileage or something I will be out, but it’s cool to be in this position, hopefully we can pull it off.”
YOU TOOK A UNIQUE PATH TO THIS LEVEL. IS THE PATH YOU TOOK TO GET TO THE CUP SERIES A NEW MODEL OF HOW TO GET TO THE CUP SERIES?
“Yeah that is a tough one. Obviously, I think there was a lot of luck involved in me getting to where I’m at and a lot of circumstances that if they don’t go exactly how they went I don’t end up here. Obviously, Ryan Preece did a really good job of putting together some Xfinity stuff that he knew he could win in and then going out and executing and hopefully that comes up with something for him. It’s really tough to really say that I sat out like obviously it wasn’t intentionally at first. I knew I had those races at JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series to kind of fall back on when I lost my Cup ride. I wouldn’t want to sit out if you don’t have something or just think you are going to have an opportunity to do something, but maybe you look at (Matt) DiBenedetto taking a leap of faith and really not having anything right now. Hopefully somebody picks him up. He does a really good job. Maybe it works out. It’s tough to say from my point of view just because so many things had to go exactly right to get me to where I’m at. But, I hope it works out for guys like that because there is a lot of talent in the back half of the garage that doesn’t get nearly the credit they deserve.”
DOES IT GET TO A POINT THAT THERE IS AN ADVANTAGE IN RUNNING SELECT RACES IN GOOD EQUIPMENT THAN RUN RACE AFTER RACE IN MEDIOCRE STUFF?
“Yes and no. So, we ran pretty well in those nine races or whatever it was with JR Motorsports in ’16, but I still think if I don’t get the opportunity to drive the No. 88 in the Cup series this probably still doesn’t come along. It’s really tough to say. I think what (Ryan) Preece did was a little different. He went to the most dominate organization, but he also won right off the bat and getting those two wins, I think was really big for him. Every situation is a little bit different, right? I think it really just depends on the person and the situation and what goes on. I think if I just would have had the Xfinity starts that I had, I don’t think I end up here, but I think Ryan (Preece) doing what he did going out and winning those two races he is probably going to get a good shot at a good Cup car. So, I think just every situation is a little different.”
HOW BIG OF A LEAP OF FAITH IS MATT DIBENEDETTO TAKING?
“I’m not Matt, so it’s hard to say, but it sounds like a big one. I’ve known Matt since I moved to North Carolina in 2010. We have been really close friends for a long time. We were teammates in 2011. He is really good. So, we were teammates when I first started my stock car career, but he was quite a bit better than me at that point. I feel like I’ve become a better stock car driver since then, but at the same time he is really, really good. He can get the job done in whatever he gets in, but I think it’s just tough to put yourself out there and hope that somebody picks you up. Like I said, it’s not just him, there are a lot of guys in the back half of the garage that can get the job done just as good as anybody and just don’t get the opportunities.”
IS THERE A BALANCE OF RUNNING WELL MID-PACK AND NO ONE TAKING NOTICE AND TRYING TO GET IN A GOOD CAR AND NOT RUNNING WELL AND KILLING YOUR CAREER?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think you look at, especially, getting in the car that (Ryan) Preece got in. If you don’t win or finish top three pretty consistently in that car you have hurt yourself probably more than you have helped yourself. So, for Ryan to go out and I think that first race he battled Kyle Busch for the win at Loudon and then he went to Iowa and won. That is huge. I think to be just as fast as Kyle Busch is in the same equipment I think that made a pretty big statement for Ryan. He could have had a flat tire and wrecked early and everybody would have forgotten about it. So, it’s very situational, but I think he did a really good job for his career there and I think it’s really going to pay off.”
HOW DOES YOUR STRATEGY CHANGE FROM THE RACE MOVING FROM JULY TO SEPTEMBER? DO YOU THINK THE DATE MOVE WILL MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO COME OUT TO THE RACE SINCE ATTENDANCE HAS BEEN DWINDLING OVER THE YEARS?
“I don’t think strategy really changes. I think the track is going to be a little cooler. Obviously, it is a little wet right now, but it’s probably going to be cloudy all weekend whenever we do get on the race track. That will be a change from a really hot, sunny Indy that we are used to. From my point of view, I haven’t been here in so long that I’m just trying to put four corners together and not mess up. I think, maybe for guys that have been coming here for 10 years it will be different, but for me it’s not anything different for me. Hopefully, the attendance is great. We are always working on putting on a better show and I think the racing… we will have more mechanical grip with the track being cooler and that should bring the racing a little closer together. Just hard to say. I think it’s probably not going to be the best test for it just with the weather forecast and everything and all that. It’s kind of a bummer to see a rainy weekend here in Indy. I love coming here. It’s a special place to me. I lived here for a little bit racing midgets and working on people’s sprint cars and having a whole bunch of fun. I’m just glad to be here.”
RICK HENDRICK HAS WON HERE 10 TIMES. DOES THAT PUT ANY PRESSURE ON YOU?
“I feel like he has won everywhere 10 times. You know I think just driving a car for Hendrick Motorsports is such an honor and an incredible opportunity. The friendship that I have with Mr. Hendrick has been amazing. To come to Indy to win here for him would be really special, but to win anywhere for Mr. Hendrick would be really special. It seems like everywhere we go I get the ‘he’s got 25 poles here or 10 wins here or whatever’. It’s amazing to hear all the history behind the team that I’m driving for. It’s just an honor to be a part of it.”
WITH THIS RACE BEING ONE OF THE CROWN JEWELS TO SOME PEOPLE DOES THAT LESSEN NOW THAT IT’S THE PLAYOFF CUTOFF RACE?
“I don’t think so. It’s still the Brickyard 400. It’s still amazing just to be here at IMS. It’s a really special race track. I don’t know if that is more so for me because I grew up racing open wheel stuff and kind of halfway grew up in the area, but it’s just a cool place to come to and a cool race to be a part of. The Daytona 500 is really special, the Southern 500 is really special, the World 600 is special and the Brickyard 400 is right there on par with the three of those. I think those are the four biggest races of the year. Just really cool to be here and anytime you are driving here it’s a cool experience.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RICK HENDRICK’S ROLE IN YOUR LIFE A LITTLE BIT?
“His current role is as a boss he writes me paychecks and then as a friend he makes me spend those paychecks (laughs). We are both big car guys and we enjoy kind of egging each other on with different stuff and different cars. We both have different cars that make way too much power and we are always tinkering with them. We have a grudge race coming up and he is slowly making me spend more and more money to try to beat him. But I realized I found the bottom of my pocket and I don’t think he is going to have that problem (laughs). I’m probably not going to win. I think if I did win it probably wouldn’t be a good thing either. But it will be fun. It’s just awesome to have a genuine friendship and have something in common like that with him and to be able to talk as buddies about it. I have so much respect for him and like I said it’s an honor to drive for him, but to have that personal relationship and all that has been really cool. Coming in to drive the No. 88 car I didn’t really think that was… I didn’t know Mr. H at all, so I didn’t think from the outside looking in I didn’t think I would be able to have a personal buddy, buddy relationship with him. Because all you see on TV is a very professional buttoned up guy and it’s an honor to be able to call him a friend and to be able to call him a boss. It’s been really special.”
IS THIS GRUDGE MATCH GOING TO BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC? AND ARE YOU GOING TO BRING YOUR MIDGET OUT NEXT YEAR IF THEY DO THIS RACE AGAIN?
“So, the grudge race… it depends how big of idiots we look like to be honest with you. Both our cars make way too much power for the tire that they are on and they are both going to spin, it’s a drag race, so they are both going to spin all the way down the track. Hopefully we just make it to the other end. We were going to put bigger, softer tires on them, but then we made a rule that we can’t. Don’t know why we didn’t that, but it will be interesting. I would imagine that we will have some sort of video or live stream. It might be open to the public, I don’t know. His car has been sitting for a while. I drive my car almost every day and his car hasn’t moved in like eight years, so we are waiting on him on that one.
“As far as the midget thing, I would love to. I wanted to bring it this year, I was just behind on getting it all back together. We are changing engine packages and quite a few things for Chili Bowl this year, so just trying to get it all back together and get ready to go to Turkey night. But yeah, it looked like a really cool show. Pretty amazing to still get it in with the rain that they had. I think the track looked awesome. It looked like they did a really good job and it would be really special to be a part of it going forward.”
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