The next teenage phenom in NASCAR racing is probably Alex Bowman. He may not have been a part of NASCAR’s Next Nine program, but he’s already several steps ahead of most drivers involved within that list.
Bowman is just 19 years old and hails from Tucson, Ariz. His breakthrough came in 201, where he drove for X Team Racing and four other teams in the NASCAR K & N Pro Series East, winning rookie of the year despite all of the changes. He then drove for Venturini Motorsports in two races in the ARCA Series and won both races.
Last year was a career season for Bowman. He ran the full ARCA Series slate with Venturini’s team and led in 12 of the 19 races held throughout the season. Besides winning four races, Bowman impressed several folks in the racing business as he racked up 13 top-1o finishes and would have had several more if pit strategy had gone his way and didn’t get involved in a few accidents.
However, for the majority of the season, Bowman kept his nose clean and proved that he can handle the large speedway, races which he had never run before besides Iowa in the K& N Series and Kansas the previous year, which he evidently won.
Bowman’s success caught the attention of several NASCAR owners last season. It’s safe to say that he’s thankful for the opportunities he’s been given to this point, but his true big break came at Chicago driving for Turner Motorsports. His first start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series was rather successful. He started and finished in the top-20 and finished a lap down, which isn’t what anyone wants, but it was still respectable for his first start.
“The biggest thing that’s changed is the people in the shop. Everybody at RAB Racing is very specialized in what they do which is a lot different from an ARCA team where everybody pitches in every project. I approached it the same way I approached ARCA. I have a really high level of dedication,” Bowman said as he spoke about the transition from the ARCA Series to the Nationwide Series.
His next break came the next weekend at Kentucky with RAB Racing, which was switching drivers back and forth throughout the year after Kenny Wallace couldn’t find enough sponsorship to solidify his ride. Bowman had a great qualifying run as he started ninth, but ran into trouble and finished 25th during the event. Even with his issues, Turner Motorsports signed him on again as he drove his third consecutive race at Dover, where he finished two laps down but stayed inside of the top-20 throughout the day.
RAB enabled him to run one more race before the season concluded. He qualified rather mediocre in the 22nd position. However, with the help of crew chief Scott Zipadelli, Bowman was able to finish on the lead lap for the first time in his career and finished 15th.
“I definitely learned a lot working with him (Zipadelli) last year. I think having Chris Rice as my crew chief this year is gonna be really good considering he and I have been friends for a pretty long time,” Bowman said. “It’s really cool to get the opportunity to work with him and I know all the guys in the shop from last year which should help too.”
That was his last start of the 2012 season, but it won’t be the last with RAB Racing. The team signed Bowman to drive the team’s No. 99 Toyota for the full season during 2013. He will be contending for NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year honors against Parker Kligerman, Kyle Larson, Nelson Piquet Jr., Jeffrey Earnhardt and Hal Martin.
Bowman feels that he’s ready for the next step in his racing career and is enthusiastic about what his future holds in NASCAR. He knows that starting out in the second tier series isn’t quite so simple, but his goals are at the point where he feels like he can contend to win some races.
Why shouldn’t he think that way? He’s with a team that’s been able to run in the top five early on in the year with limited funding. What’s going to happen if they receive plenty of funding this year? The team can grow out to become a real contender, which is just what team owner Robby Benton has been trying to do since the team’s inception in 2008.
Not too many 19-year-old racers are as dedicated as Bowman is. He stated that he visits the race shop on a daily basis, something that seasoned veterans even do. He feels that building and working on his own race cars is how things should be done and he has a very good point. That’s how drivers used to do things back in the day. Yeah, the days before he wasn’t even born–just like many new NASCAR fans and me.
Bowman believes that working with Wallace should be a great experience this year. Wallace is slated to run a minimum of three races this season for RAB Racing in a second NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry for the team.
“He’s a busy guy. He’s hard to get a hold of. I’m really excited to work with Kenny. He’s going to bring a lot of experience to the team. It should help a lot and I’m just excited to get a lot of advice from him and just hang out with him. He seems like a funny guy and it’ll be fun to have him around,” Bowman said.
He claims that the best advice he’s been given so far is to dedicate himself. He recognizes that the sport is very time consuming and takes away from the normal teenage life, but he’s ready to commit and it shows. Bowman feels that if he can win a race this year, he would like to run a few Sprint Cup Series races next season with the hope of competing for rookie of the year in 2015.
Bowman will be behind the wheel of the No. 99 Toyota Camry sponsored by the Florida Lottery at Daytona with additional sponsorship for other races to be announced at a later date.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.