Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman has just set a new personal-best mark after the trip to Phoenix Raceway. He took over the points lead for the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career.
According to the unofficial standings issued by NASCAR, Bowman now sits at the top of the leaderboard with 154 points. He is three points ahead of Kevin Harvick, six points ahead of Ross Chastain, and 10 points ahead of teammate William Byron. Though the driver of the No. 24 has more playoff points after winning two races.
Bowman has achieved this feat by delivering consistent performances in the first four races of the season. He joined forces with a new crew chief, Blake Harris, and then he kicked off the season by finishing fifth in the Daytona 500 after starting from the pole.
Bowman’s consistency continued with an eighth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway, a third-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and a ninth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway. This most recent top-10 was significant for Bowman considering that he has regularly struggled at his home track.
“It’s been since 2016 I think since we’ve finished in the top 10 here, so happy for that,” Bowman said after the race. “I have to figure out how to get better here. Obviously, I think our car is stronger than that when you look at our teammates.
“Fundamentally, I have something messed up. Just have to keep working on it, but proud of my No. 48 Ally Best Friends Chevy team. Good points day.”
The Performances Have Turned Heads
The driver of the No. 48 faced questions entering the 2023 season. Many wanted to know if he would get a new contract extension while others wanted to know if he would gel with his new crew chief.
Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports answered the first question prior to the Daytona 500. He signed a three-year deal that will keep him in the driver’s seat of the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet Camaro through at least 2026.
Bowman and Harris have also answered the second question with consistent performances early in 2023. They have avoided on-track incidents and knocked out top-10 finishes. Bowman is actually the only driver in the Cup Series to finish inside the top 10 in all four races.
These performances have drawn attention inside Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, one particular Hall of Fame member explained that he is very happy with the fast start by Bowman and Harris.
“100 percent. Blake Harris coming onboard, new combination driver/crew chief,” Jeff Gordon said during a post-race press conference. “To see them click as early on as they have, I think one of the reasons why that worked, kind of came to, was because the confidence both Alex had in Blake and Blake had in Alex. It’s nice to see that it’s paying off for them on the racetrack.”
This Consistency Has Been a Focal Point
All of the Hendrick Motorsports drivers have celebrated in Victory Lane numerous times in recent seasons. Bowman, in particular, has seven wins — two in the No. 88 and five in the No. 48. However, there have also been moments when these drivers have struggled with consistency.
The 2022 season was a fitting example. Bowman punched his ticket to the playoffs in March with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he also had an eight-race stretch over the summer where he didn’t crack the top 10. This is something that Harris wanted to address early in his crew chief tenure.
“The focal point for me would just be us getting consistency and the speed of race cars that we need every week,” Harris told Heavy at Auto Club Speedway. “There may be days where they had a little bit slower days or didn’t have the speed that we needed. Being able to just raise that bar a little bit.
“If we have a tough day and not get it done, try to go still sneak out top 10 or top five when we’re a 10th-place car. Just get as much consistency in our game and try to set ourselves up for the day.”
The early returns have been positive, but there is more work for Bowman and Harris to do. They have to attempt to keep this momentum during a trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway, which provides a superspeedway-esque product.