Pressure of expectations ‘up to 10’ – Bowman

The question to Alex Bowman was about the pressure to deliver for Hendrick Motorsports in its 40th-anniversary race next month at Martinsville Speedway. Bowman’s answer, however, centered on more than just one race.

“It’s really important for the company,” Bowman said Tuesday during a media event promoting the April 7 event. “It means a lot to everybody here, and I want to win that race. But that’s every week for me right now, with how things have gone. So, yeah, pressure is up to 10 at every moment.”

Hendrick Motorsports will be the center of attention at Martinsville, where Geoff Bodine’s victory in the spring of 1984 kept Rick Hendrick from closing down his first-year operation because it was taking more money and resources than Hendrick had anticipated. But the victory, the first for Hendrick in the NASCAR Cup Series, kept the company afloat and Bodine went on to win twice more that season.


The rest, as they say, is history. Hendrick Motorsports is now the winningest organization in the Cup Series.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers will all have special ruby red paint schemes at Martinsville Speedway. Jeff Gordon and Bodine are the co-grand marshals. Rick Hendrick is driving the pace car ahead of the Cook Out 400.

While Bowman is a former Martinsville Speedway winner, another one is sorely needed for the No. 48 team.

“It’s more just wanting to win and wanting to get back to performing how I know we can,” Bowman said. “Selfishly, I don’t really care what other people think. I don’t want only to win races because I drive for Hendrick Motorsports, I want to win races for me. I want the trophies for me.

“I don’t really give a (expletive) about the rest of it. Running how we have has been so frustrating. I’ve worked super hard and done everything that I can to get back to where we need to be. So, I don’t feel outside pressure, it’s just me wanting to win for me.”

It’s not a matter of Bowman thinking about job security.

“No, definitely not,” Bowman said. “Mr. Hendrick and [primary sponsor] Ally have made it super clear that they have faith in me. I don’t think the outside sometimes sees the whole picture of everything that’s going on. We’ve fought a lot of different things, and I think we’re all doing everything we can to get better.”

Bowman has not won since the 2022 spring race in Las Vegas. This time a year ago, Bowman was leading the Cup Series point standings and looked poised to win sooner rather than later. But then Bowman broke his back in a sprint car crash in late April and the season was derailed. The team never showed the same strength from early in the season when Bowman returned.

Through the first five races of the 2024 season, Bowman is 12th in the standings with two top-10 finishes. Bowman’s crew chief, Blake Harris, has a sentiment similar to that of his driver. As the leader of the race team, Harris has focused on making sure everyone resets each weekend and accept that sometimes a race will fall their way and sometimes it won’t.

“Last year, it was obvious with the things we had to fight,” Harris said. “But this year we go to Las Vegas, one of his stronger tracks and I’m like, ‘Man, we’re going to go execute and have a good day.’ We had a not-great stop there in the middle of the race that set us back and we didn’t qualify well. We had to come up through the field twice, and it was just like a gut punch, one after another.

“We go to Phoenix and drive up to eighth; the cautions fell and we go back to 20th again and it’s like, ‘Man, what do we have to do to get momentum?’ Then we take a race that’s complete chaos (Bristol), qualify 29th, have everything in front of us not to have a great day, and we were able to overcome that and drive up inside the top 10 and get a top five out of it.”

“It’s frustrating,” Harris continued. “I want to sit on the pole and win every race and we haven’t been able to do that. We’ve got to continue to grow and execute with our group and not let the frustration carry over to the next week because we’re fully capable. We had a really good race car last weekend and regardless of how bad on paper Phoenix or Vegas looked or us, nothing held us back from being able to go compete at Bristol at the level that we did. I think we can do that every week.”

Bowman and crew chief Harris acknowledge the frustration of having under-delivered thus far, but both feel success has been hovering just out of reach. Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images

Harris was paired with Bowman in 2022 when signed by Hendrick Motorsports. It was his second year being a Cup Series crew chief and with a smile, he admitted he would have scripted his first few seasons differently. However, he’s still grateful for the opportunity, the resources and the people behind the team. And, in the combination of himself and Bowman.

“I love working with him,” Harris said. “No, it hasn’t gone the way we’ve wanted, but we’ve had opportunities to win races. We might not be where we want to be every week, but we’ve had plenty of times we’ve been in the mix, and things just haven’t fallen our way. When it does click and it does go our way, I think it’ll be fine, and we can get on a roll.”

Bowman is eager for the team’s capabilities to turn into consistent results — at Martinsville Speedway and elsewhere.

“We’re doing all we can to get back to where we need to be, but the potential is definitely there,” Bowman said. “I think Blake and I work well together, and everybody gives us all the tools we need to be successful. It’s just been a rough go of it. There’s no reason why we can’t turn it around.”

Story originally appeared on Racer