Editor’s Note: This continues the series of season reviews for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs drivers.
Driver: Alex Bowman
Car: No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Crew chief: Greg Ives
Final 2021 ranking: 14th
Key stats: 4 wins, 8 top fives, 16 top 10s, 161 laps led
How 2021 ended:
Bowman was eliminated in the Round of 12 of the Cup Series Playoffs after a 38th-place DNF at Talladega Superspeedway put him in a difficult points position entering that round’s final race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Although eliminated from championship eligibility, Bowman dramatically won the penultimate event at Martinsville Speedway – punctuating a career-best four-win season.
RELATED: Alex Bowman through the years
Bowman led 98 laps on his way to a career-first victory at Dover International Speedway. He led the race’s final 97 laps to beat teammate Kyle Larson — the eventual NASCAR Cup Series champion — to the flag by an impressive 2.017 seconds. It was his second victory of the year, marking the first time he’d ever won multiple NASCAR Cup Series races in a season.
Other season highlights:
Bowman’s four wins was a personal-best mark and came on a variety of tracks – from the 0.75-mile venue of Richmond Raceway, to the Dover “Monster Mile” to Pocono Raceway’s tricky 2.5-mile triangle to the Martinsville short track. And 2021 was also a year that saw career-high marks in top-five (eight) and top-10 (16) finishes.
Stat to know:
Bowman’s four-victory season stands out, as do his career-best statistical marks – only 2021 champ Larson won more races (10). Yet for as big as his trophy haul was, Bowman led only 161 laps – far off the totals he put up the last two years (200 in 2019 and 440 in 2020). His average finish (15.1) was also below the marks he established in the last two seasons (14.4 in 2019 and 14.7 in 2020).
“Was confident coming into this year, but the thing that I’ve always circled is just try to be consistent, consistently running well. We’ve struggled to do that. It’s pretty hard for me to be super-excited right now (after his Martinsville win). The beginning of the season if you told me I was going to win four times, I’d be pretty excited. Wish we were going to Phoenix with a chance to win the championship. It has been painful to kind of go through the playoffs this way. But it’s awesome to at least start to end the year on a strong note.” – Bowman after his Martinsville Speedway victory on Oct. 31.
Career-high marks in 2021 are a good sign for the 28-year-old Bowman, who is looking to elevate his overall performance to contend for the championship. He has proven himself able to take home the race trophy, and in 2020 proved that he can race further into the title race. Now, it’s time to combine the efforts and challenge for the bigger trophy won by different teammates the last two seasons. Bowman finished sixth in the championship in 2020; advancing to the Round of 8 is a reasonable expectation given the current success of the Hendrick Motorsports organization.