Alex Bowman has had a lot going on since the Tucson driver won his second career NASCAR Cup Series race last Sunday, building on his historic place as the only Arizona native ever to win at the Cup level.
The victory all but assures Bowman a spot in the NASCAR playoffs. Phoenix Raceway will host Championship Weekend for the first time, Nov. 6-8.
Bowman, 26, updated The Republic before arriving at the Avondale oval to drive the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet in Sunday’s FanShield 500:
About a new contract with Hendrick Motorsports:
“Anytime you win in a contract year, it’s a good thing. Not that I have a whole lot of leverage or statistics, but to have a win in your back pocket so early in the season is a big positive. I want to drive at Hendrick Motorsports the rest of my career . . . I’m very dedicated to them and hopefully Mr. H (owner Rick Hendrick) wants to keep me in his racecar.
“We’ve talked about it (contract) already. This sport is a business. It costs a ton of money to run these cars and there are a lot of moving pieces. (Sponsors, for example.) We’ve already been talking about it.”
Pushing himself harder:
“I’ve really motivated myself based off there’s plenty of people who’ve said I can’t do this and that I don’t deserve to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Even after (first win last season), ‘It was a fluke.’
“Sometimes I get frustrated with myself. I don’t have the most fun-loving personality when things aren’t going well . . . I promise you no one’s working any harder, especially right now. These last few weeks are the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself. I’m trying to out-work everybody and use every piece of motivation to keep running up front.”
The November 2016 Phoenix race, when he started on pole, and almost won but for a closing-laps multi-car wreck:
“I still think (that’s) the best car I’ve ever had in Cup. That one that got away still bothers me, almost every day.”
Plans to get a neck tattoo with friends:
“Yeah, I don’t think a neck tattoo will happen. Some kind of tattoo is going to happen. I’m not sure where it’s going to be, or when it’s going to happen … (These friends) are like family to me. It’s something we’ve been talking about the last couple of weeks. It was a joke, but it’s not a joke anymore.”
Road racing fans have long preferred to leave a grandstand seat behind in favor of roaming the infield. But it seems some of that has come to Phoenix Raceway.
Credit the INfield, part of the track’s $178 million transformation, with a pedestrian tunnel between it and the grandstands. There are big screens, the Miller Lite Beer Garden, access to the garage area, drivers meeting red-carpet walk and Gatorade victory lane, driver appearances, games and a Junior Activity Zone. Mike’s Hard Lemonade Stand now has the premier location between victory lane and the Cup garages, formerly a margarita bar.
“That provides (fans) social areas where they can be part of the action,” track President Julie Giese said. “They can watch on the big screen, look over and see a pit stop happening, walk over into the garage if a car comes in to get some work done.
“We know, especially younger people, they don’t want to sit in a seat for three straight hours. They like to get up and experience the entire event from different areas. They want to make the experience their own.”
–Sunday’s prize money is $6,441,795. This is the first time in several years NASCAR has made the amount public.
–Martin Truex Jr. will lose 30 minutes of practice Friday, since his car failed pre-race inspection three times last weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Two failed inspections will cost Kurt Busch 15 minutes.
–Kyle Busch is scheduled to make the first of his five Xfinity Series starts this season in Saturday’s LS Tractor 200.