Bowman to make 200th Cup start at Kansas

Competing in his sixth full-time season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Alex Bowman is set to achieve a milestone start. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s event at Kansas Speedway, the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will reach 200 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

A native from Tucson, Arizona, Bowman made his inaugural presence in the Cup Series a month prior to the 2014 season. By then, he was coming off a full-time Xfinity Series season with RAB Racing and was testing for BK Racing during Dayton’s Preseason Thunder leading up to the Daytona 500. Bowman’s testing session was enough for him to earn a full-time ride with BKR for the 2014 Cup season and in the No. 23 Toyota Camry.

Qualifying for the 2014 Daytona 500, Bowman finished 23rd in his first Cup career race. Throughout his first full-time season in the Cup circuit, he achieved a season-best 13th-place result at Daytona in July, an average result of 32.6 and a 35th-place result in the final standings. He also settled in sixth place in the Cup Rookie-of-the-Year standings.

In 2015, Bowman departed BKR and joined Tommy Baldwin Racing as driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet SS. He started the season on a low note by failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 after wrecking in his Daytona Duel event. From the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he raced, through the season-finale event at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, Bowman achieved a season-best 16th-place result at Talladega Superspeedway in April, a total of three top-20 results, an average result of 31.6 and a 33rd-place result in the final standings.

A month prior to the 2016 season, Bowman was replaced by Regan Smith at Tommy Baldwin Racing, thus leaving Bowman without a full-time ride for the first half of the Cup season. Everything changed in July, though, when Bowman was named driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS for the Cup event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, replacing third-generation star Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Earnhardt Jr. was ruled out from competing after being diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms. During the main event at New Hampshire, Bowman was competitive and was in position for a strong result until a cut tire sent him into the wall late in the event and relegated him to a 26th-place result.

With Earnhardt Jr. sidelined, Bowman ended up sharing the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS with four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon for the remaining 18 Cup events of the 2016 season. Competing in 10 events, Bowman recorded his first three top-10 career results in the Cup circuit, including a season-best sixth place at Phoenix Raceway in November, where he notched his first Cup career pole and led a race-high 194 of 324 laps. Bowman’s pole at Phoenix guaranteed him a spot for the 2017 Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona. Despite entering the 2017 season without a full-time ride, he drove Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet SS in the Clash, where he drove the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS to a third-place result following a side-by-side battle with Kyle Busch on the final lap.

Three months after Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced his retirement from full-time Cup competition after 2017 in April, Bowman was named a full-time driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the 2018 Cup season, a move that was endorsed by Earnhardt Jr.

In his first run as a full-time HMS competitor, Bowman claimed the pole position for the 2018 Daytona 500. During the main event, he led 13 laps and was a top contender until he was collected in a late multi-car accident and finished 17th. He went on to earn a season-best third-place result at Pocono Raceway in July and a total of nine top-10 results throughout the 26-race regular-season stretch. Despite recording zero victories throughout the regular season, Bowman was able to make the 2018 Cup Playoffs based on consistency.

In the Playoff’s Round of 16, Bowman earned results of 19th, 12th and fourth, which were enough for him to advance to the Round of 12. During the Round of 12, however, he recorded results of 28th, 33rd and ninth, which eliminated from title contention. Bowman went on to conclude the season in 16th place in the final standings. By then, he surpassed 100 Cup career starts.

Bowman commenced the 2019 Cup season by starting on the front row for the season-opening Daytona 500 and finishing 11th in the main event. Nine races later, he earned a career-best second-place result at Talladega Superspeedway in April. He went on to record two additional runner-up results the following two races at Dover International Speedway and at Kansas Speedway in May. 

Five races later, Bowman prevailed in a late battle with Kyle Larson to claim his first Cup career win at Chicagoland Speedway in June. In becoming the 18th competitor to win while driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Bowman recorded the first victory for HMS’ No. 88 Chevrolet team since Phoenix in November 2015.

Returning to the Playoffs, Bowman advanced to the Round of 12 following results of sixth, 23rd and second during the Round of 16. Despite recording results of third, 37th and 11th in the Round of 12, his title hopes came to an end. Nonetheless, Bowman went on to conclude the season in 12th place in the final standings and with a career-high seven top-five results.

Remaining at HMS for a third consecutive season, Bowman opened the season with a 24th-place result in the Daytona 500 despite starting on the front row. Two races later, however, he notched his second Cup career victory at Auto Club Speedway after leading a race-high 110 of 200 laps. 

Following his victory at Fontana, Bowman went on to earn a total of eight top-10 results before entering the Playoffs as a title contender. He transferred to the Round of 12 for the third consecutive season and following results of sixth, ninth and 16th in the Round of 16. For the 2020 season, though, he was also able to advance to the Round of 8 following results of fifth, 14th and eighth during the Round of 12. Bowman remained competitive during the Round of 8 while logging in results of third, fifth and sixth. They were not enough, however, for him to advance to the Championship Round at Phoenix. Ultimately, Bowman concluded the season in a career-best sixth place in the final standing and with a career-best 15 top-10 results. 

This season, Bowman pilots the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, a ride driven by seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who retired from full-time NASCAR competition following the 2020 season. His first run in the No. 48 car started off on a high note as Bowman claimed his second Daytona 500 pole of his career. In doing so, he became the first competitor to start on the front row for the 500 for four consecutive seasons. His bid for a first Daytona 500 victory, though, came to an end after being involved in an early multi-car wreck.

Through the first eight Cup events of the 2021 season, Bowman’s best result was a third-place run at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. The following event at Richmond Raceway in April, he overtook Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano following a late restart to claim his third Cup triumph and return the No. 48 HMS car to Victory Lane since June 2017 at Dover International Speedway.

In 199 previous Cup starts, Bowman has achieved three career victories, three poles, 18 top-five results, 45 top-10 results, over 900 laps led and an average result of 21.7. He is currently ranked in 14th place in the 2021 Cup Series regular-season standings.

Bowman is slated to make his 200th Cup career start at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, May 2, at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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