CONCORD, N.C. – With the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season and the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum just less than a month away, Blake Harris is getting ready for his first race with Alex Bowman.
Harris was named the crew chief of the No. 48 Ally Racing team in October, replacing the retiring Greg Ives ahead of the new season.
As the 35-year-old Texas native gets adapted to his new team and work environment, it will help that the No. 48 team will have a number of familiar faces to his driver. That in turn helps the new crew chief’s learning curve move at a faster pace.
"For the most part, it is the same guys that Alex (Bowman) has known and Greg (Ives) has had around him," Harris told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this week. "That’s important to me. I feel like I had a lot of that when I went to Front Row (Motorsports). For me to come onboard in my first time being a crew chief in the Cup Series with some engineers and people that were already in place that understood the systems, it just feels like it speeds up that process."
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That process helped Harris guide Michael McDowell to his best overall season in the Cup Series with career-bests in top-10 finishes (12) and an average finish (16.7). It’s a process he aims to replicate in having a strong season with Bowman.
Harris and Bowman have spent a lot of time around each other this offseason, learning each other’s style and rhythms. With no track time until the Clash on Feb. 5 (8 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), some things will have to be adapted and learned on the fly.
"We’ve spent as much time together here in the shop going through things together," Harris said. "I spent a lot of my time going back through all their race notes trying to get a better understanding of what he needs and what his comments are throughout the season.
"We certainly are doing everything we can to accelerate that learning curve. Looking forward to LA especially, a non-points race to start the year off and work on those communications with Alex and the entire team really."
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The first points-paying event of 2023 will be the DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, Feb. 19 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Qualifying for the front row will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Bowman is no stranger to qualifying well for “The Great American Race.” He has been on the front row for the last five DAYTONA 500s and earned two pole positions (2018 and 2021) during that time. Harris wants to continue that run and build on it.
"As far as the 48 is concerned, we want to go down and sit on the front row and bring a car that we can race with," Harris said. "If that takes tuning on it throughout the rest of the weekend to get it there for Sunday, that’s what we what we are willing to do."