Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Daytona Media Day–Alex Bowman

FEBRUARY 14, 2018

ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Daytona 500 Media Day. Full transcript:

Are you tired of being compared to Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) and hearing about living up to expectations?
“It comes with the territory. Dale has been a big part of my career, left a huge mark on the sport and continues to influence the sport in a big way. I’m really blessed to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports and will do the best I can to keep this 88 up front.”

What would it mean to get your first win in the Daytona 500 in the 88?
“It would be really special to win the 500. I have a long day on Sunday to try to make that happen. We’ve been close to winning races with the 88 team before, so I know we can pick up where we left off and do it again.”

How was your off-season like compared to others?
“Longer. I had like a year off. It was a normal off-season; nothing special about it. I went to the Chili Bowl like I do every year. Had normal production days, but that’s part of being a Cup driver these days. Even driving for smaller teams we didn’t have any production days but still had the media days and media tours and stuff like that.”

There are some people that think you’re a rookie.
“I’m running with it. If they’ll give me a rookie set of tires and I can run for rookie of the year I’ll take it. If I can redo 2014 this year, I’m all for it.”

How much has the pole this week helped boost your awareness?
“I think everybody is pretty realistic that it’s more race team and race car than it is driver in speedway qualifying. I’m appreciative to drive the fast car here and to be on the pole is special, but the credit doesn’t really go to me it goes to the race team. It’s been fun to get to do everything that comes along with it, but I don’t want to say that I did anything special. I want to be a be a big part of this sport and to have as many fans cheering on the 88 car as possible.”

How do you assess your chances to win the race on Sunday?
“I haven’t speedway raced in a year so it’s going to be tough. I have to get my feet back under me as far as speedway racing goes. Last time I drove the 88 at a speedway race, we ran third in a Clash. Before that, we ran second or third and spun out at Talladega. I think we’ll be pretty strong. We obviously have a fast race car. I just have to do my just and keep it up front and out of trouble.”

What is the chain of command when you have a grievance to get out to the sanctioning body or other team groups?
“I haven’t been back in it long enough to answer that. You have the group chat, so you can talk through that. I feel like everybody in the garage area is pretty open, whether it’s the drivers or NASCAR themselves. NASCAR has always said that even if you’re not part of the council they’re always willing to listen. If there’s something that’s big enough for a driver to go to talk to NASCAR, their door is always open.”

Your sponsor is bringing their No. 1 spokesman down here to drive the pace car. Are you excited to meet with him and tell him what he should do as he drives the car?
“I thought about spinning him out, but that wouldn’t be a very good idea. Nationwide has the Daytona 500 surrounded. We’re on the pole with the 88 car, we’ve got Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) giving the command, and we’ve got Peyton (Manning) driving the pace car, so it’s cool to be part of that and hopefully we’ll keep the Chevy Camaro ZL1 up front all day.”

Is he someone you spent Sunday afternoons watching?
“Absolutely. I think everybody has. Super Bowls and all kinds of stuff. I will be the first time I’ll meet him, so that’s cool and really looking forward to that. It’s cool to be on the same team.”

How excited are you to get to non-plate tracks like Atlanta to see what you guys really got?
“I’m really excited, especially with the Camaro ZL1, to get to Atlanta, unload and see what we have. Speedway racing is its own beast and completely unlike anything else we do, so it doesn’t really give us a good judge of how we’re going to be for the rest of the year. When we unload off the truck in Atlanta it’s a good idea how we’re going to be the remaining part of the year.”

Is there stress being on the pole?
“Being on the pole I think takes stress away. You just have to keep your race car clean. My job is to stay out of trouble in the Duel and not put the race car in a compromising position.”

Last year was almost like a gap year.
“For sure. ’16 was similar. I was part time, but last year they kept me pretty busy during the week in comparison but definitely had some time off.”

Did you learn anything in particular about racing or yourself?
“Not really. I learned that I had a lot of fun. I got to spend a lot of time with my friends. I just tried to enjoy myself and be as fresh as I could to get down here for SpeedWeeks.”

Do you feel like you’ve inherited some of Dale’s fans?
“I hope so. It’s hard to say where Dale’s fans are going to go. I just hope to keep the 88 up front and give them something to cheer for.”

What are you doing for fun in Daytona?
“They keep us pretty busy. I don’t think I’ll have any free time until Friday afternoon or Saturday afternoon, so will have to wait and see. Just hanging out so far.”

Where did you go last year non-racing?
“I went to Colorado twice, went to Chili Bowl and did a lot of work on our Chili Bowl program. Just kind of hung out and didn’t do too much but had a lot of fun.”

Do you feel like you’ve already shown what you can do?
“We’ve proved we can contend for wins. We have to prove we can finish the job. I think I’m confident we can do that this year. I’m hired to win races and contend for championships. I’m going to do everything I can to keep the race car clean. It’s my job to do the best job I can and we’ll see how it plays out.”

How did you spend the Daytona 500 last year?
“I think I was at home watching. I knew that there were a lot of eyes on Dale coming back and I didn’t want to be the guy standing over Dale’s shoulder or being there oddly. I just watched it on TV.”

What are the things you’ll be looking for tomorrow night?
“For me, I want to be able to be super aggressive, so I want something that drives well. I feel like you can sacrifice that speed a little bit. As far as the Duels go, I think sitting on the pole we kind of showed our hand that we’re pretty trimmed out. And it’s an impound race now. We can’t touch it. Now it’s my job to keep it out of trouble. It’s going to be a handful. Hopefully, on some of the pit stops we can work on it a little bit. I wouldn’t worry about how we’re going to run in the Duel. We’re going to try to keep the race car as safe as we can. It’s definitely pretty trimmed out, so we don’t want to have to go to a backup car.”

You’ll hang back and wait for the pit stops to make adjustments?
“We’ll have to see how the race plays out and how the car feels. We haven’t drafted at all. We have no idea how our race car is going to drive in the draft. I think there are a few post-qualifying adjustments they are allowed to make, but definitely not enough I would say. Obviously, the Duel pays points but I also really like my primary car so it’s a tough one. We just don’t want to tear that car up. There are circumstances where you just can’t get out of trouble, but it’s going to be a different race for me than in the past. I’ve never come down with a car that had a lot of speed by itself. Having a car with a lot of speed will change how I’m able to run the race and able to make moves. At the same time, I’m definitely a little nervous on how it’s going to drive. I think we’ll be fine. Just have to wait and see how it shakes out in the beginning of the race.”

When did you know you could make a job out of this?
“I don’t know the correct answer. As a kid you dream about making a job out of it. I don’t think there exactly was a time that I knew I would be able to do it. I would say there were times two years ago when I was worried I would be able to continue doing it. The correct answer is when Mr. Hendrick called me and said you’re driving the 88 car.”

What kept you going?
“I’m not good at many other things, so I tried to stick with it as long as I could. Everything happens for a reason. I knew I could be a part of Hendrick Motorsports in some capacity and that was where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, so even if this didn’t come up I probably was going to stay there in some capacity. I’m glad it worked out.”