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May 14, 2023

Alex Bowman: Timing uncertain on return to Cup Series competition

Alex Bowman meets with reporters at the No. 48 hauler in the Cup Series garage at Darlington Raceway
Zack Albert
NASCAR Studios

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Alex Bowman provided an update on his health Sunday at Darlington Raceway, saying he has no firm timetable on his return to NASCAR Cup Series competition as he heals from injuries suffered in a sprint-car crash.

Bowman remained sidelined for Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at the 1.366-mile track, and Josh Berry substituted in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet for the third consecutive week. Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in an April 25 event at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa, and he said he is scheduled to have a physician assess his recovery this week.

RELATED: At-track photos: Darlington

“Every day is a little different. I feel like I definitely feel way better than I did a couple weeks ago,” said Bowman, whose crash came on his 30th birthday. “… But I don’t have any time for an estimated return. Some doctor appointments this week, get some more X-rays, see how I feel and I can go from there. But yeah, I’m obviously mobile, super fortunate that the injury wasn’t worse than it was.”

Bowman was moving without any noticeable impairment through the garage area Sunday afternoon, signing autographs before a media availability at the No. 48 hauler. He said he’s resumed working out in the gym with some modified exercises but that the biggest back pain has been when he laughs, coughs or sneezes or reclines to sleep. Bowman said he’d also want to be able to pull his seat belts tight without pain and absorb bumps and pit stops before feeling comfortable back in the cockpit.

Bowman said his Hendrick Motorsports team has been supportive of his extracurricular racing, and he owns a team that races sprints and midgets. Despite missing two races heading into Darlington, he was still 15th in the Cup Series standings — with six top-10 finishes in 10 starts — and dismissed the suggestion that his season was a write-off.

“I don’t think so. I mean, we’re still in the playoffs right now on points as we sit,” Bowman said. “So I think it’s overcoming, you look at what Kyle Busch has done and what other guys have done post-injury. I mean, it sucks, right? It’s not where I want to be, especially with the season we were having, but I know we can be as strong as we were before I got hurt when I come back.”

Bowman said his return to the track would depend on what his doctors report Wednesday, plus his comfort level of being in the car. He said he might participate in pit-stop practice this week, driving in the parking area and seeing how the jarring action of the car dropping off the jack feels.

Still, he welcomed being back at the track for NASCAR Throwback Weekend, backing the efforts of Berry and the rest of the No. 48 group.

“I knew my back was gonna hurt when I got old. I just didn’t think it was gonna be like that,” Bowman said. “But yeah, just trying to stay plugged in, right, here to be supportive of the 48 team. If I wasn’t here, I would be sitting on the couch. So quick little road trip and glad to be here.”

The Cup Series’ next race is the NASCAR All-Star Race, scheduled Sunday (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Bowman has a berth in the All-Star main event, but team owner Rick Hendrick said that the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28 at Charlotte Motor Speedway could be the more desired return date.

Either way, Hendrick said he won’t hurry Bowman back behind the wheel.

“Look, I want him to be right when he gets back in the car because when you’ve got an injury like that, which he would like to be back in Charlotte,” Hendrick said. “He’s seeing the doctor this week, and he’s got to get in and out of the car. They’ve got to get the belts on him and see how he responds. That’s a terrible injury. If you come back too early, it can mess you up for the whole year. I want him to be right. He’s listening to the doctors. He has started working out. I think it’s a good shot he’ll be back pretty quick. But we haven’t done the test in the car with the straps on him and harnesses and see if he has any pain.”