THE MODERATOR: We are joined by today’s third-place finisher Alex Bowman. Why don’t you walk us through your run today.
ALEX BOWMAN: I felt like we had a pretty solid day. We kind of struggled on long runs a little bit, but had really good pit stops all day. Our Camaro was pretty fast. Decent restarts. Nothing went wrong for once. Seems like every race all year something has gone wrong, right? I was just glad we were able to put an entire day together and not have anything go wrong.
Greg called a great race. We were just a little off. I was on the splitter a little bit over the bumps. Would kind of snap the back of the car out of the racetrack after that.
Solid day. Really proud of the 48 team. On to the dirt race next weekend.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll start with questions.
Q. You guys have shown for the most part as much speed as your teammate so far this season, but have not been able to obviously capitalize on the results. Though you didn’t have a chance to capture the win today, did it feel good to be in that position?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve struggled in some areas this year that have been pretty frustrating. I feel like we really struggled in dirty air, maneuverability in traffic, restarts and stuff. Worked really hard at bringing something to the racetrack that I could be aggressive with, could drive hard.
Felt good to have that, to be able to pass cars. My pit crew did a great job keeping us up front, as well. Yeah, I mean, it definitely feels good to be closer to the front. We want to be a couple spots better.
After the last couple weeks, this definitely feels pretty good.
Q. The performance of Hendrick Motorsports, how does it feel for you right now to be part of the organization?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I mean, every day walking into HMS for me is a dream come true. Still enjoying every minute of it. I feel like this is the strongest start to the season the company overall has had. I feel like as a race team we were a little better the beginning of last year than we are the beginning of this year. I feel like us specifically could have won Vegas. We did win Fontana. Came back after the break pretty strong.
I feel like we’re a little behind. But the 5 and 24 specifically are super fast each and every week. It always is good to be able to learn from them. Yeah, everything is going really well. A lot of really smart people working really hard back at the shop. It’s paying off.
Q. You got strung out a little bit today. Does the surface have anything to do with it? When they talk about repave, does it matter if they repave between July and the start of the 2022 season with the NextGen car? Does it matter to you or to drivers at all if you’re going to change something, why not change everything all at once?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like the surface, you’re going slower so it’s a little more forgiving just because of the raciness of the racetrack. You have some huge corrections and still catch the race car. That’s probably why it gets as strung out as it does.
There’s really no mechanical grip once the tires are worn out. That’s another reason I feel it gets strung out. Aero grip is super important. It’s hard to follow somebody closely.
As far as repaving it, I haven’t driven the new car yet so it’s really hard for me to say. I hope they never repave this place. I think the slick racetracks are so much fun. We’ve repaved some places and not had the races that we used to at those racetracks.
I love the fact that you can run from the bottom all the way to the outside wall here. You can move around. It’s got so much character. I understand the need to repave it, right? From a race car driver’s perspective, I hope they never do. I love these places with character.
Q. About learning from the 5 and the 24, what have those lessons been? How close are all four cars to each other or are you just completely different? What’s applying that you’re learning from the other two?
ALEX BOWMAN: Yeah, I feel like all four cars are really similar each and every week. The team does a really, really good job of working together and bringing the best product to the racetrack that they can.
I feel like every crew chief has their own interpretation, every engineer has their own interpretation of the data and the tools we have at HMS. There are differences in all four cars. Doesn’t matter if you think you’re showing up the same as a teammate, different teams just kind of do things just a little bit differently, right? Little things add up at these events.
They’re definitely close. It’s an open notebook. That’s the best part. When we struggle a little bit, our teammates are out front, we can go to them, lean on them, which is great.
I don’t know exactly what the things are or aren’t, but I’m glad that we have some really fast teammates to lean on.
Q. Is there a particular area where your team is really trying to focus right now that you feel is the biggest hindrance you’ve been fighting?
ALEX BOWMAN: Building fast racecars, faster racecars (smiling). I don’t know. I feel kind of like I said earlier, I’ve struggled on restarts a lot this year. Instead of being on offense, I felt like I’m trying not to crash for a couple laps. I feel like today was a step in the right direction in that. I guess next week is probably going to be a whole different deal, but from then on see how it applies.
Q. Back to the conversation about leaning on your teammates. You referenced how strong of a start it has been, maybe the best Hendrick has had. Do you feel a lot of that is because of how closely you guys are working together? Was there a conversation before the start of the season that you need to be tighter knit as a group?
ALEX BOWMAN: I think we ended last year really strong as well, with the 9 winning the championship. I think we scored the second most points during the Playoffs, or at least until the very last race. We all ended the year pretty strong. I feel like that’s carried over.
I feel like any time you kind of move people around, have some new faces, whether it’s Kyle, new driver on the 5, Rudy, a new crew chief on the 24, typically that, like, sparks positive things pretty quickly. I feel like they both have been great additions.
But I really think it just stems from ending last year so positive, continuing the positive momentum.
Q. Greg Ives has been the constant for you. What has he brought to the team? How has he helped make you a better driver?
ALEX BOWMAN: Riddles. He likes to talk in riddles (smiling).
I feel like Greg and I are both a little awkward at times. But I think recently Greg has stepped up and kind of identified some areas that he can help me in the race car, whether it’s on the radio, keep giving me more information, helping me understand things, or telling me things I can do differently, what he sees on the driver data and stuff like that.
I feel like today Greg talked more on the radio than he has any race I ever have been a part of. I think it was really positive. I think we’ve been working together for, like, four years now, but we still are learning. I feel like we learned some things that he can help me. It’s definitely showing.
Q. You guys are off to a terrific start as a whole. Your expectations ahead with the unpredictable race at the Bristol dirt race.
ALEX BOWMAN: I’m excited. I may not be a dirt guy, per se, but I probably have more dirt starts than most, I guess, going into Bristol. I ran a couple different midget series for a couple years. While I ran pavement more than dirt, I did run some dirt stuff. I’m going to race my Sprint car this year as well. I definitely enjoy the dirt thing.
I’m ready to go. I ran the ARCA race on dirt. I feel like that was somewhat similar. I don’t know what to expect. You saw the track get pretty rough over the last couple nights. But those late models make a lot of grip, do some crazy stuff with the rear suspension that I think probably tends to dig the racetrack up a little bit. Our cars are heavy. I don’t think — I don’t know. We’ll see if they do the same thing or not.
I’m just excited. I love new and different things. I think going somewhere completely different than what we’ve done in the Cup Series for forever is pretty awesome. Who knows if it’s going to be amazing, not great, what the racetrack is going to do or what’s going to happen. I think the fact that it’s new, different and exciting, is really cool to be a part of.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for taking the time to join us. Good luck at Bristol.
ALEX BOWMAN: Thanks, guys. Have a good one.