Monday, May 27, 2024

Alex Bowman cleared to return at Charlotte

Alex Bowman is back. On Wednesday, Hendrick Motorsports announced he will return to the #48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday after missing the last three NASCAR Cup Series points-paying races with a fractured vertebra.

“It’s a boost for all of us to have Alex return to the #48 car this weekend at our home track,” commented team owner Rick Hendrick. “He’s still seventeenth in points, which says a lot about how well the team performed at the start of the year. Alex has worked hard to rehab the injury and come back strong, and I look for him to continue having a championship-calibre season.”

Bowman broke his vertebra after crashing in his team-mate Kyle Larson’s High Limit Sprint Car Series in late April. The injury sidelined him for the next three races at Dover, Kansas, and Darlington, as well as the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro, for all of which Josh Berry filled in; Berry had also replaced fellow Hendrick driver Chase Elliott for five races earlier in the season while Elliott was recovering from a broken leg. In relief duty for Bowman, Berry scored a best finish of tenth at Dover while also winning the All-Star Open.

He remained at North Wilkesboro to test the car on Tuesday, running 170 laps. Such tests, officially called Medical Evaluation Tests, are permitted to let drivers coming back from injury get re-acclimated to driving but have caveats to reduce potential competition advantage such as prohibiting drivers from testing at a given track if the series is scheduled to race there within the next sixty days.

At the time of his accident, Bowman was ninth in points. Since then, he has dropped to seventeenth and five points below the cut line, though his standing is also impacted by a sixty-point penalty that he received earlier in April. NASCAR has granted Bowman a waiver to let him compete in the playoffs should he qualify by either winning a race or being in the top sixteen assuming there are fewer than sixteen race winners.