The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is only one race deep, but the No. 48 team is off to a strong start. Alex Bowman finished fifth in the Daytona 500, but crew chief Blake Harris wants to keep this streak going.
Harris spoke to Heavy ahead of the Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway, and he provided insight into his first few weeks working with Bowman. He expressed optimism about the season after the Busch Light Clash and the Daytona 500, but he also explained how consistency is the major focal point for a team that has reached the playoffs every season since 2018.
“Alex and the entire team have made it easier to step into my part,” Harris explained. “And the focal point for me would just be us getting consistency and the speed of race cars that we need every week. 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.”
Following this interview, Bowman delivered another consistent performance at Auto Club Speedway. He led 17 laps, secured points in the first two stages, and then went on to finish 10th overall while contending with debris on the track and a hole in the rocker box.
Bowman was the second-highest finishing driver in the Hendrick Motorsports stable behind Chase Elliott (second). William Byron was 25th after dealing with a tire issue while Kyle Larson was 29th after falling several laps behind the leaders due to a mechanical issue.
Consistency Played a Role During the 2022 Season
The 2022 season was an interesting one for Bowman. He punched his ticket to the playoffs with a win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but this race followed two where he finished outside of the top 20.
Like Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron, Bowman — and much of HMS — dealt with some consistency issues during the 2022 season. He had two other top-five finishes and nine other top-10s during the regular season. He was also involved in five crashes that resulted in DNFs.
Bowman started the 2022 playoffs with some strong performances. He finished 10th at Darlington Raceway and fourth at Kansas Speedway, which helped him build up a points buffer and move on to the Round of 12.
The situation drastically changed during the first race of the Round of 12. Bowman hit the wall at Texas Motor Speedway after getting loose, and he sustained a concussion. This forced him to miss several races while he focused on his recovery. Bowman was able to return for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, but he ended the season 16th in points.
Harris Sees Similarities Between Bowman & Another Driver
Harris is starting his second season as a Cup Series crew chief — his first with Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports. However, he has experienced success during his time in NASCAR while working in other roles for Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing, and Evernham Motorsports.
Harris played a pivotal role in Martin Truex Jr. winning numerous races and ending the 2017 Cup Series season as the champion. Now, he guides another driver that shares some similarities with the driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota.
“I think all those guys definitely have their certain place that they’re comfortable in car balance, of what they need,” Harris added. “What’s interesting, looking at all of Alex’s wins and some of the tracks he runs really, really well at overlay a lot with what Martin does.
“I think some are looking at some of the car balance and his comments, I think they have similar driving styles when you look at some of that stuff. So that’s kind of been helpful for me. I was with Martin for a long time, so I felt like I got a good understanding of what he needs.”