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January 14, 2023

Despite rough week at Chili Bowl, Alex Bowman enjoying the weeklong party in Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. – Alex Bowman has no problem admitting he hasn’t had a great week performance-wise at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.

The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series is competing in his seventh Chili Bowl inside the SageNet Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On his preliminary night Tuesday, he looked to be in a prime position to advance to the championship feature for the first time.

That’s when things started going wrong.

“We’ve had weeks that were super successful here and then weeks like this where everything is in shambles,” Bowman said.

Bowman had barely started his preliminary feature when he was collected in a crash. He was unable to continue, relegating him to a 23rd-place finish that will bury him deep in the Chili Bowl’s alphabet soup races Saturday.

How much worse could the week get for Bowman?

A lot worse, as it would turn out.

In addition to competing as a driver, Bowman is also fielding cars for veteran dirt racers Jake Swanson and C.J. Leary. Swanson’s qualifying night was Wednesday, and he finished ninth in his preliminary feature after being collected in a crash. Leary hit the track Thursday and was involved in not one, but two crashes in two different cars.

“I think our cars are really good. It’s all been things out of our control,” Bowman said. “Daison [Pursley] spun in front of me, and I didn’t have anywhere to go. Obviously that ended our night. Jake got caught in Ashton [Torgerson’s] deal and tore the car up and kind of limped it home.

“Then obviously C.J., in the heat race he made a mistake, and in the B [Main] he just got drove over. It’s been frustrating, but at least our cars are fast.”

That bad luck has left Bowman and company scrambling to have all three cars ready for Saturday night, but it hasn’t stopped them from trying to have a little fun at one of auto racing’s most unique events.

“I just enjoy going racing with my friends. That’s the biggest thing,” Bowman said. “I’m thankful that things haven’t been worse than they’ve been. They could always be worse. Just trying to enjoy it.”

Alex Bowman during the 2022 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals inside the SageNet Center in Tulsa, Okla.(Photo: Nick Oxford/NASCAR)
Alex Bowman during the 2022 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals inside the SageNet Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo: Nick Oxford/NASCAR)

What makes the Chili Bowl so unique? According to Bowman, it’s all about the party.

“I think the party is really what draws the big crowd,” Bowman said. “The pit area has as many people in it as the grandstands do. It’s a weeklong party with some racing attached to it.”

Bowman compared the Chili Bowl to tailgating at a football game, but on steroids.

“It’s like if you could tailgate at a football game in the grandstands. Everybody’s pit area has their own party, and you’re literally at the race track,” Bowman said. “The party is unlike anything else. The people are great. The atmosphere is great. It’s just fun.”

Despite the bad week on the track up to this point, Bowman remains hopeful for a positive result when his cars hit the track Saturday for the final day of action inside the SageNet Center.

While his own odds of making the 55-lap finale are slim, Bowman still thinks one of his cars has a legitimate shot at making the Saturday A-Main.

“If Jake’s car gets to the A Main, that would be phenomenal,” Bowman said. “He’s in the C (Main), so if we can get him through the C (Main), through the B (Main) and to the A (Main), that would be a super successful deal.

“I’m in the E (Main). It’s going to be tough. There are a lot of really good cars in the E. I’m sure C.J. is further back than that. It’ll be tough, but that’s part of it.”