Alex Bowman has had a rough 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
He missed the playoffs for the first time since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2018, and things took another ugly turn in the September 3 race at Darlington, the first race of the postseason, when he and Daniel Suarez crashed late and exchanged verbal jabs in post-race interviews. Those heat-of-the-moment comments received all the attention, but the remarks of NBC analyst Dale Jarrett were just as sharp.
During the post-race show, the Hall of Famer didn’t hold back after watching both drivers wreck and blame the other for “dumb” moves. The 66-year-old particularly took issue with Bowman, who oddly mentioned in his interview how Suarez’s crew chief had flipped him off during a ride to the airport.
“You block once, yeah, you go to block that second time, you got to expect that you’re going to get hit right there,” Jarrett said of the move by Bowman, which ended the night for both drivers and Harrison Burton. “If you know that there’s someone that you have a difficult time racing against, then you shouldn’t keep doing the same things and put yourself in that position. These guys need to learn.
“The other side of it is, these guys are a little too sensitive,” he admitted. “They’re worried about somebody flipping them off and getting mad. They’d have never made it in the eighties and nineties.”
Flipping the Bird Was a Conversation Earlier in 2023
While Jarrett was specifically addressing what Bowman said, his comments could have applied to another incident earlier this year at Charlotte during the Coca-Cola 600 when Bubba Wallace flipped the bird at Aric Almirola, who took exception to it and confronted the 23XI Racing driver during a rain delay, where he initially shoved him before the two got face to face, were eventually separated, but continued exchanging words while walking down pit road.
Almirola explained what happened after the race.
“Early in the race, I felt like I was giving Bubba a lot of room when we were racing around each other,” Almirola said. “And when he got by me, he shot me the bird so I just went to go ask him, why he shot me the bird and he started mouthing off and cussing at me and I told him I wasn’t gonna have that. So yeah, disappointing. That’s him. I know that.”
That incident started a conversation among fans and drivers about the usage of the middle finger. Good or bad? Right or wrong?
Anyone who has followed racing knows it’s a tradition that’s been a part of the sport for years. Unlike traditional stick-and-ball sports, where players are in close proximity, talking trash or even shoving an opponent to show displeasure isn’t uncommon. In racing, those aren’t possible, so the bird is far and away the most efficient and safest way to express those feelings while traveling almost 200 mph.
Alex Bowman Fans Might Want to Give the 2023 Season the Bird
Alex Bowman and his fans will remember the 2023 Cup Series campaign, and the memories won’t be good. But what most forget is it didn’t start that way. In fact, the HMS driver was one of the hottest out of the gates, scoring six top 10s in the season’s first seven races, including three top fives.
His season dramatically changed when he crashed during a mid-week sprint car race and broke his back in April. He missed three races and hasn’t been the same since.
In 14 races, he’s managed only a pair of top-10 results. He was in position to earn a third at The Lady in Black, running in eighth when he blocked Suarez a couple of times, the second one proving costly and causing both cars to crash. And then the comments followed. Just another ugly memory from this season.
All of it combined, no one would blame Bowman fans for wanting to give this season the bird, even if their driver might not like it.