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March 7, 2022

Back-door wins? Alex Bowman has shown he can hack it


Dylan Buell | Getty Images
Dylan Buell
Getty Images

Alex Bowman is now a seven-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series, and the all-time record books will show that without asterisk. Seven has been considered a lucky number dating back to biblical times. In Bowman’s case, at least one of his peers considers his seven to be more lucky than others.

Kyle Busch unloaded a cool-down lap radio salvo that wasn’t very cooled down after Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, calling into question the integrity of Bowman’s body of work. The essence of that diatribe — with obscene gerunds redacted for a PG-13 version — went like this: “The same (expletive) guy who backs into every (expletive) win that he ever (expletive) gets, backs into another (expletive) win! (Expletive)!”

RELATED: Bowman takes Vegas | Cup Series standings

The frustration was understandable after Busch essentially drove a reserve “parts car” from the back of the field into the thick of victory contention Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A late-race crash forced overtime, bunching up the field and undoing Busch’s fierce contest for the lead with teammate Martin Truex Jr. That’s where Bowman — who had been running fourth at the time of the late caution period — entered the picture, joining his Hendrick Motorsports teammates on a two-tire pit strategy that put him on the front row for the final, fateful restart.

Bowman’s No. 48 Chevrolet led just 16 of the 274 laps, including only the last three in the final stage. Busch had only a fourth-place result to show for his herculean drive and 49 laps led — second-most of the day.

The expression of wanting to be more lucky than good may have some truth behind it, but to be lucky seven times over? Some of Bowman’s Cup Series victories have a late-bloomer, back-door quality to them, but one-hit wonders don’t hit pay dirt with such frequency.

Win
Date Track Laps led Total laps
1 June 30, 2019 Chicagoland Speedway 88 267
2 March 1, 2020 Auto Club Speedway 110 200
3 April 18, 2021 Richmond Raceway 10 400
4 May 16, 2021 Dover Motor Speedway 98 400
5 June 26, 2021 Pocono Raceway 16 130
6 Oct. 31, 2021 Martinsville Speedway 9 501
7 March 6, 2022 Las Vegas Motor Speedway 16 274

Bowman’s surprising victory last summer at Pocono Raceway comes to the top of mind. The No. 48 driver led only 16 laps that day, too, but only took command on the final lap when teammate Kyle Larson’s tire deflated with victory in sight. Last fall at Martinsville Speedway, Bowman led just the last nine laps after nudging past Denny Hamlin during their tense playoff clash. He also headed the final 10 last spring at Richmond Raceway, again offsetting Hamlin’s daylong dominance.

Bowman’s portfolio, however, has its share of victories that are shorter on late-race drama and longer on convincing performance. His breakthrough win at Chicagoland nearly three years ago required another fending-off of Larson, but he led nearly a third of the 400-mile race. His second victory — at California’s Auto Club Speedway in 2020 — was a romp, with Bowman leading more than half of that event. And last year’s triumph at Dover finished off a Hendrick Motorsports rout with a top-four sweep for the organization on the leaderboard. So there’s some balance there, a greater variety than Busch’s blanket-statement blast would suggest.

MORE: Busch sounds off post-race

Bowman seemed to be taking the heat-of-the-moment aspersions in his typical stride. After finding the text of Busch’s radio transmission on social media post-race, he suggested designing T-shirts with the transcript to make light of the dig. And a mere 20 hours later, Bowman posted the link to his new merchandise, donned with a Vegas-themed, “All Luck, No Skill,” billboard on the front of the shirt with “Backing into Wins” on the rear collar.

To drive the point home, Bowman is donating 18% of the proceeds to animal shelters.

It isn’t the first time Bowman has created clothing out of quoting. He capitalized on Hamlin’s description of him as a “hack” after their Martinsville dust-up last season, adopting that as a shirt-friendly nickname.

No. 48 fans have something new to wear to the track, and Bowman’s win total may go from seven to eight in short order. Fortunate breaks, on-track serendipity and plain-old luck may factor in, but Bowman’s been lucky and good — quite good — in making it all happen.

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