No Happy Camper: Alex Bowman Looking To Change Feelings About NHMS This Weekend

Alex Bowman celebrates winning the Monster Energy Cup Series Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images for NASCAR)

LOUDON, N.H. – For NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series drivers, putting a positive spin on the negative can be seen as an art form. 

Polished positive promotion is part of the game at NASCAR’s highest level. 

But when it comes to Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman makes zero effort to put a happy face on his feelings about New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

The hard to figure out flat 1.058-mile oval in Loudon is a place that historically is split down the middle when it comes to drivers emotions. They either love it or hate it. 

“It’s probably not a popular thing to say,” Bowman said. “I hate that place.

“It’s always been a place that I’ve despised so much that half the time I feel like I just sit in my [motor coach] and be miserable. Hopefully we’ll be fast this time and really enjoy it.” 

Maybe there’s some hope for Bowman’s feelings about New Hampshire Motor Speedway changing. The 2019 season has been on of turnarounds and accomplishment for the Tuscon, Az. native who is in his second season running full-time in the Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports, where he replaced Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the team’s No. 88 ride. 

Bowman ran his first full-time season in the Cup Series in 2014 for BK Racing. He ran in 2015 for Tommy Baldwin Racing, but found himself out of ride at the end of the year. He landed as a simulation driver at Hendrick Motorsports in 2016. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. was forced out of the car for medical reasons in July 2016, Hendrick Motorsports tabbed Bowman as his fill-in. 

Bowman made his first start in Earnhardt’s ride in the Foxwoods Resorts Casino 301 on July 17, 2016. After running with the leaders for much of the day a cut tire relegated him to a 26thplace finish. He would go on to start nine more races in place of Earnhardt that season. 

When Earnhardt retired following the 2017 season it was Bowman tabbed to replace him at Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman made the playoffs in 2018 for the team, but still came into 2019 looking for his first series win.

He struggled out of the gate in 2019 with nine consecutive finishes outside the top-11 to start the season. 

“I think we definitely had a rough start to 2019,” Bowman said. “It seemed like there was a month or so where our teammates found a lot of speed and we continued to struggle which was really frustrating for myself and for [crew chief Greg Ives] and for the whole [No. 88] team. A whole team struggling is really hard for everybody involved, but when your three teammates kind of start to figure things out and you continue to struggle that’s probably more frustrating than if everybody was struggling. I’m glad we were able to turn it around from there. … That was definitely a rough patch and it took a lot to kind of dig ourselves out of it.” 

The turnaround for Bowman began April 28 at Talladega Superspeedway with a runner-up finish to teammate Chase Elliott. Bowman followed that up with consecutive second place finishes at Dover International Speedway (May 6) and Kansas Speedway (May 11). 

Then came the big one for Bowman on June 30 when he got his first career Monster Energy Cup Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway. 

“Honestly I don’t really think it changes much,” Bowman said. “It’s still business as usual. I think we can be a little more aggressive and take more chances at the race track now than we were in a position to previous to that because we’re locked into the playoffs. Still working just as hard as ever trying to win a bunch of racing. It’s really cool to get the monkey off our back finally and get our first win. … We want to get the second one and the third one and go on from there.” 

If that second one came in Loudon it just might change Bowman’s feelings about New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

“I think a lot of it too is if you hit on something that you like with the race car and all of the sudden you’re successful there then you’re going to like the place,” Bowman said. “That turns it around in a hurry. Hopefully we’re able to do that. … I think it’s interesting at the Cup level. I feel like everybody is really really good. Pretty much everybody at the Cup level is capable of winning races, so it comes down to dialing in your car and knowing what you need. If you can figure out what works and what doesn’t work for that race track that weekend you can definitely make yourself like that place.” 

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