Alex Bowman ready for reset after injury, season of lessons

Nearly seven months removed from a fractured vertebra that temporarily sidelined him, Alex Bowman is ready to hit the reset button and get back to contending for wins after a season of struggles.

“The (2023) season’s been tough,” Bowman said ahead of the finale at Phoenix. “I mean, we've kind of been kicked in the teeth every week for six months.”

Bowman missed four weeks of the season while recovering from the injury he sustained in a sprint car crash in Iowa. He missed point races at Dover, Kansas, Darlington, as well as the All-Star Race before returning for the Coca-Cola 600.

Bowman was back in the car for the crown jewel race but this was only one step in his journey back to full health. There were many moments throughout the second half of the season where he dealt with pain and soreness while continuing to recover.

“I couldn't really walk the week after the 600,” Bowman said. “Then I felt pretty good for a little bit. The Indy road course got my back pretty bad.

“When I did the Indy oval test the next couple days, I was hurting a lot more than I expected to. And then last week (at Martinsville), I was a little bit sore. So I think the heavy braking tracks have been difficult for me.”

The No. 48 team performed well early this season. Bowman had top-10 finishes in six of the first seven races. He won the pole twice in the first seven races. Bowman took the points lead before he and teammate William Byron received 60-point penalties for greenhouse violations.

Once Bowman returned from injury, he and the No. 48 team struggled. He only reached the second round of qualifying once in the 23 races following his return. He only posted four top-10 finishes and one top five. He crashed at both Darlington and Las Vegas.

This season was the first time that Bowman missed the playoffs since becoming one of Hendrick Motorsports' full-time drivers in 2018. He went winless for the first time since 2018 and ended the season 20th in points.

“Some weeks have been really self-inflicted,” Bowman said. “Darlington was my fault. Vegas was my fault. Two top-five days that I caused us to not have. Some weeks we’ve just been way off.

“…We showed what we were capable of at the beginning of the season. I messed that up by breaking my back.”

The continued recovery from the back injury was only part of the season of growth. Bowman also had to learn a different approach to the mental side of Cup racing while going through these struggles.

"Previous years, I would have a bad weekend and hold on to that for the whole week and make myself miserable the whole week and really kind of tear myself apart over my own mistakes," Bowman said.

"I think this year, there's been so many bad weeks that I've really had to learn how to deal with them in a better way and be more positive about things."

With the season complete, Bowman will have time to reset before heading to Daytona in February for the first points race. That doesn’t mean he will be staying away from Hendrick Motorsports.

There is still significant work to be done before the 2024 season. Bowman has to continue training while getting his body ready for 2024. He has to continue working his crew chief Blake Harris and the No. 48 team to avoid a slow start next season.

The work rarely stops after the checkered flag waves at Phoenix.

“I'm in the sim on Monday so yeah, there isn't really an offseason for us,” Bowman said. “They keep us a little bit busy. I mean, middle of December, you can kind of get away, but other than that, I'm still planning on training and kind of keeping everything up.”