Being a rookie in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series might be one of, if not the most challenging part of some racer’s lives. This year, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year class is abundant. Even though one rookie has lost his ride due to funding issues, the rest of the rookie class appears to be secure in their seats – at least for the remainder for the season.
Alex Bowman, 21, is one of those rookies. Bowman is racing for the underfunded BK Racing organization. After releasing both of their primary drivers from the 2013 season, BK Racing opted to go with two rookie drivers at the helm of their Toyota Camry’s with Bowman as well as Ryan Truex. Together, the pair has had their struggles, but there is light at the end of the tunnel in Bowman’s eyes.
“The transition to the Cup Series has been a challenging one. Having a crew chief in Dave Winston and a great team around me, it has made that transition easier,” Bowman said.
After racing for RAB Racing in 2013, Bowman proved to BK Racing’s owner, Ron Devine, that he was capable of racing in NASCAR’s highest rank. Bowman tested for the organization over the off-season at Charlotte and also appeared at the Daytona test.
However, with the jump to the Sprint Cup Series, the No. 23 team has experienced adversity 12 races into the season. In his lone Nationwide Series season, Bowman had six top-10 finishes, and also had two pole awards. This year has been anything but successful though. His best finish was 22nd at the Auto Club Speedway, yet he has had seven finishes of 32nd or worse.
“The longer races have been the biggest transition for me. When you add the extra 100 or 200 miles or laps it takes time to get used to it,” he said to Speedway Digest. “We need to continue to get better each and every week and I feel that we will continue to become more competitive. We need to continue to get better each and every week and I feel that we will continue to become more competitive.”
What has been Bowman’s culprit this year? It is simple – bad luck. At Martinsville, he was on his way to a solid run, but wrecked multiple times and was relegated to a 36th place finish.
As an underfunded team, BK Racing utilizes Race Engines Plus, owned by Joey Arrington. Besides BK Racing, Joe Nemechek’s Identity Ventures Racing. Entering this season, expectations were not set high for Bowman, and he understood that. Moreover, the team has sporadically performed well this year, but their results don’t show it. Having three consecutive top-30 finishes at Darlington, Richmond and Talladega was a step in the right direction for this small team, even though it does not sound like the greatest of achievements.
“Probably my feedback to Dave and the crew guys. I continue to get use to the way these Sprint Cup Series cars drive compared to a Nationwide car,” Bowman said on what he needs to improve on.
Meanwhile, as Bowman continues to look for success, his teammate, the younger brother of Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., has had some struggles. Truex has more experience in NASCAR competition than Bowman, but has not finished better than 30th this season after missing the Daytona 500 and the race at Texas. Currently, the No. 23 team with Bowman sits 34th in owner points and is relatively safe from missing races. Meanwhile, Truex's No. 83 team is 42nd in owner points, and is not guaranteed into each event.
Amidst their struggles, the two have developed a close bond, closer than just teammates. With such a small team, they are able to work with each other in multiple ways, on and off the race track. Besides developing a friendship, their crews led by Winston and Doug Richert, are now working better, and results are on their way.
“Ryan and I try to work together and compared notes and driving styles. Dave has been great to work with. Him brings a ton of knowledge from the team’s that he has worked with in the past. Dave is certainly a calming voice on the radio each weekend.”
As he continues to adjust to the higher level of competition, expect the Arizona native to run closer to the top half of the field. It is going to be a long, tough road, but Bowman believes he is up for the challenge. The new qualifying format which NASCAR implemented at Phoenix has also helped him gain extra experience, something extremely valuable for a driver looking to find a home for multiple years at a young organization.
“(The) Biggest adjustment is that these guys never take a lap off. Each and every lap they go as hard as they can.”