Despite not winning at COTA Alex Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports still confident in the 48’s future

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 23: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on March 23, 2024 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Among the four NASCAR Cup teams at Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman seems to be an outlier of sorts.

But he stands on the shoulder of some NASCAR giants.

The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet who took over for first Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2018 then Jimmie Johnson in 2021, hasn’t exactly had the performance in the last couple of years he, or the team, had hoped for. Some of that due to missing races due to injury; injuries sustained on a NASCAR track, and off.

He has seven wins with Hendrick but none since 2022 when he won at Las Vegas but was forced to miss five races near the end of the season due to concussion symptoms towards the end of the year. Then in April of 2023 he broke his back in a sprint car accident and missed three races.

When he returned to racing at Charlotte in May that year, he would struggle the rest of the season scoring only two top 10s and one top 5 finish.

But things might finally be looking up for Bowman. He started the season with a second-place finish in the season opening Daytona 500 and Sunday he was fourth at the Circuit of the Americas, his second consecutive top five finish.

Despite his struggles Hendrick Motorsports still seems confident in Bowman.

“Bowman, yeah, when he gets on a roll, he gets his confidence up, there’s no telling what they’re capable of doing,” Hendrick VP Jeff Gordon said Sunday night. “I’m really happy for them. Two top fives in a row. They’d had a couple rough weeks, so they needed this.

“Hendrick Motorsports is tough, right? Four of the top drivers and teams out there, and there’s a lot of pressure on you. If you’re winning, there’s pressure to continue. When you’re not winning or you’re not at the same level as your teammates, there’s a ton of pressure that you got to get there.”

Bowman started 17th Sunday and fought his way into the top five. Then late in the going his crew chief Blake Harris called him in earlier then the leaders for green flag stops. The crew performed a flawless pit stop and Bowman returned to the track as the leader teammate William Byron followed by Ross Chastain who was second at the time.

Bowman came down the frontstretch as Byron was leaving the pits. He was able to slot in behind Byron and ahead of Chastain. Bowman found himself in second place in the final laps but slowed in the final circuits and had to settle for fourth. On a hot Texas day that exacted a toll on many drivers, a sweaty, red-faced Byron climbed from his car and watched while his teammate Byron celebrated the win.

“I wouldn’t say I am worn out; I am just bummed,” Bowman said. “Probably just got stuck out in traffic after our last pit stop. It was a bad spot that I had to run too hard on low air and beat the rear tires up. Kind of inched in on William (Byron) for a bit, but then the rear tires just went away. Yeah, definitely had to manage it some. Definitely some tire fall off here.”

Gordon said he was proud to see the strategy the 48-team pulled off. He indicated that it might have been a fuel issue for Bowman.

“Yeah, I mean, I want to dissect it and dive into it a little bit more with Blake and the team, do some of that on the flight home when I leave here, as well as tomorrow in our debrief.,” Gordon said.

“I mean, it seemed like it was the right call. At the same time, they were a little bit short on fuel. I don’t know if they didn’t get it full or they were using more than they anticipated. It was going to be really, really tight for them, even if they could have held off Gibbs and Bell.

“As soon as those guys got by him, they started saving. So yeah, I don’t want to comment too much on it till I get a little bit more of the information from those guys.”

No matter what, the call impressed Gordon who is not only a VP but a four-time NASCAR champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame driver.

“Getting a top five I think was huge,” Gordon said. “It was a good call to obviously get the track position. Who knows, that may have helped the 24, as well, because they had to get by the 48. That takes a little bit of time to do that.”

Gordon said he has all the confidence in the world in Bowman, and that Bowman himself is showing that confidence.

“Alex is one of those guys where the bigger the challenge, seems the like the better he does,” Gordon said. “I’m going to leave here and try to find more ways to really challenge him even more.

“He’s a great race car driver. It just takes the whole combination. They didn’t qualify well, but they had a good car seemed like all weekend. I think his confidence in the car, especially once they dropped the green flag, showed. Blake called a good race.”



Greg Engle