Alex Bowman's rookie season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series has had plenty to do with timing -- some good, some bad, with a lot of racing luck in the middle.
With all the experience he's gathered in the first 30 races this year, it's easy to forget that he's still just 20 years old.
Bowman carries nearly a season's worth of racing and poise into the next stop on the Nationwide schedule, Nov. 2 at Texas Motor Speedway, as he continues to pursue Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series. He'll drive the No. 99 RAB Racing Microsoft Windows Toyota at the 1.5-mile track, marking a return to the site of his first pole position -- in just his 10th career start.
The Arizona native's jump to the Nationwide ranks seemed well-timed from the start of the year, when he landed a stellar third-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. Though just a rookie -- with the yellow stripes on his rear bumper to prove it -- Bowman showed the polish of a veteran, earning the trust of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars and placing himself in a position to win near the end.
"It was kind of hard to get people to work with me, but I think that's just part of being a rookie," Bowman said after the race. "We pushed really well. I mean, heck, I pushed guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. It's really an honor for me to get to race with those guys. It was a lot of fun."
In the time since then, Bowman has accumulated five more top-10 finishes, including a solid fifth-place performance four races ago at Kentucky Speedway. He was in contention for another top-10 in the series' most recent race at Charlotte Motor Speedway until an ill-timed caution flag after his final pit stop left him shuffled back in the running order, where Bowman scratched out an 18th-place night.
"Although it's disappointing, I'm proud of all our guys, and it shows the hard work they're putting in is paying off as we're starting to run up front each and every week," Bowman said. "The time they put in at Toyota Racing Development, at the wind tunnel, and our Joe Gibbs Racing Engines, it just seems like everything is coming together.
"With that being said, I can't wait to get to Texas in two weeks, a place I really enjoy and home of our first pole award. ... We'll just keep our chin up and know that we had a car that could run up front."
The reason for Bowman's anticipation for Texas has as much to do with the field-topping 183.418 mph qualifying lap he turned there in the spring as it does his growing comfort level on intermediate-sized speedways. He's also eager to hit the track with the return of Microsoft Windows as his primary sponsor.
The agreement isn't merely a buy for prime advertising real estate on Bowman's car, but is more of a mutually beneficial technology partnership that pays dividends on race day. Toyota Racing Development's TRD Trackside application runs on a Microsoft Surface Pro touch-enabled tablet running Windows 8.1, helping Bowman and sometime RAB Racing teammate Kenny Wallace improve trackside communication and share practice data more effectively with the team.
According to pit crew chief Chris Rice, "I love the Windows 8 Trackside app on the Surface Pro. There's a long list of features that have made all of our lives easier, from the track map, to the live timing and scoring and setup notes. I can also instantly see all the information from my engineers, read tire temperatures and gather information seamlessly. The Windows 8 Trackside app has really boosted our performance in 2013 by saving us a lot of time, which translates into more time on track and less time in the garage.
As a show of his support, Bowman will stop in to the Microsoft Specialty Store in nearby Frisco, Texas on Friday, Nov. 1, giving away a pair of VIP passes to the race a Surface device to a lucky fan. He'll also test fans' driving ability with some head-to-head action playing Forza on an Xbox in the store.
With 30 races under Bowman's belt and three races left this year, those fans may find a rookie with more seasoning than they expected.
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