Bowman looks the part of rising star
March 23, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
FONTANA, Calif. -- Absolutely convinced of his ability and committed to his dream, Alex Bowman finished up high school a year-and-a-half early and at the age of 16, packed up and moved 2,000 miles from his Tucson, Ariz., home to an apartment in Mooresville, N.C., ready to make a name in NASCAR.
Entering the Royal Purple 300, the 19-year-old Bowman led the Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year standings over a host of preseason can’t-misses, big names and mega-teams.
The youngest driver behind the wheel, he has a pair of top-10 finishes and contended for another and is ranked 10th in the championship standings.
“I don’t think a lot of people really gave us high expectations but we all expected a lot of ourselves, we’ve got a lot of good people at RAB Racing and a lot of great race cars,’’ Bowman said. “So we’re not surprised, I think a lot of others might be.
“We’re going to compete for (Sunoco) Rookie of the Year and we’ll compete to win races at the same time.”
"We’re not surprised, I think a lot of others might be. We’re going to compete for (Sunoco) Rookie of the Year and we’ll compete to win races at the same time."
-- Alex Bowman
Both the sport’s wily veterans and ordained hotshots have certainly taken notice. Fans should too.
“Alex gets a little overshadowed, but that’s OK, we’ll just keep flying under the radar and by the end of the year people will say, ‘Hey, where did this kid come from,’ ” Bowman’s veteran crew chief Chris Rice explained, with a slight smirk.
Bowman is tall, lanky and appears even younger than his nearly 20 years. He likes video games, loves electronic dance music (EDM) and enjoys drift racing. He’s well-spoken and photogenic. And he’s already got a “brand” and management company run by Daymond John, founder of the FUBU clothing line and star of the popular ABC television show, “Shark Tank.”
“The thing about Daymond is he’s never failed on any of his projects,’’ Bowman said earnestly from the infield of Auto Club Speedway Friday afternoon. “He wanted to get involved with NASCAR and I think he likes that I’m different.’’
“We had heard about him through mutual friends and I just started watching Alex and then we met a couple times after that and I became fascinated with him,’’ John said Saturday before giving the starting command for the Royal Purple 300.
“I’ve worked with many, many celebrities in the past from the Kardashians, Lennox Lewis, Pitbull that have become very big and (Bowman) has what it takes that I’ve seen in every single one of those people.
“Alex is a great, great kid and someone who is sellable and can move to the top."
Like a lot of NASCAR’s West Coast drivers, Bowman came up in the USAC midget and sprint ranks before deciding to make a career of it in stock cars. He came to the No. 99 RAB Racing with Brack Maggard team after an impressive 2012 season in the developmental ARCA Series, where he won four races, earned six poles and had double the laps led (554) of anyone else in the series.
What’s most impressive about that is there were only three full-time employees on his ARCA team. It “rented” a pit crew on race day and in addition to Bowman -- who worked on the car himself -- the team often relied on students from the NASCAR Technical Institute to help prepare the cars for race weekends.
“And that struggle has definitely made him a better driver now,’’ said his long-time friend and current public relations manager Van Knill.
“Alex is a car person,’’ Rice said. “He likes cars, he understands cars, and he works on his own car and that doesn’t happen much anymore. And that means he goes faster, quicker. The big thing we have to remember is he’s only 19. He still likes video games and that dance music, but when he’s in the car, it’s like you’re talking to a 30-year-old.’’
That maturity is apparent when speaking with Bowman, who has taken a methodical and measured approach to his career.
“I want to go Cup racing, but I want to win a Nationwide championship first,’’ Bowman said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say I want to go Cup racing in 2015 after two years in the Nationwide Series because if I haven’t consistently won races in the Nationwide Series, I shouldn’t go Cup racing.
“I want to prove myself here before I even think about moving up.’’
It’s an attitude veteran Mark Martin, 54, can appreciate.
With the second most wins in Nationwide Series history, Martin met with Bowman before the series race in Las Vegas two weeks ago. As he’s done with other, more experienced competitors, Bowman picked Martin’s brain and took in all the sage advice he could from the likely future Hall of Famer who is currently driving a partial season for Michael Waltrip Racing.
“So far I give him really high marks,’’ Martin said Friday. “He continues to run better in that car than he should.
“I like his style and his mannerisms. I don’t know him real well yet, but really good first impression.’’
Similar to what he did in Vegas, Bowman took a tutorial ride around the 2-mile oval in a pace car with veteran Elliott Sadler.
“I’ve never been here before so a lot of it visual, seeing all the seams and getting advice on the line to run, different things about the race track,’’ Bowman said.
It’s his willingness to learn, combined with natural ability and an old-school love of mechanics that Rice says gives Bowman that special “it” factor he and John have recognized.
And others have taken note as well. In fact Bowman says the “coolest thing” that’s happened this year was when Kyle Busch congratulated him after an eighth-place run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- one of the many Nationwide venues Bowman had never turned a lap prior to the season.
“Kyle came out of his way at Las Vegas to say, ‘good job’ and I don’t think he does that very often, so it meant a lot coming from him,’’ Bowman recalled with a wide smile
Leaning back in the team’s hauler, he smiled again thinking about how far he’s come. And how far he can go.
“I’m having a lot of fun,’’ he said. “My crew guys are my best friends. They’ve been awesome. It’s been stressful and a lot of hard work (to get here) but I love what I’m doing and I wouldn’t change a thing.’’
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