CONCORD, N.C. – It was a tale of two seasons for Alex Bowman and the No. 48 Ally Racing team. The first part of it saw the driver's fast start put him atop the standings. The second part of the season, which followed Bowman’s month-long absence due to injury, was a tough stretch for the team.
SEASON RECAP: Chase Elliott
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season marked crew chief Blake Harris' first season as the shot caller for Bowman’s team. The pairing hit the ground running at the exhibition Clash at the Coliseum with a fourth-place finish. Before the start of on-track activity at Daytona International Speedway, Bowman received a three-year contract extension (running through 2026) to drive at Hendrick Motorsports. That momentum carried over to the DAYTONA 500 where Bowman earned his third pole position for "The Great American Race" and his record sixth straight front-row starting spot for the prestigious race. He also became the first DAYTONA 500 pole sitter in 21 years to finish in the top five of the race.
The opening seven weeks of the season saw Bowman earn three top-five finishes, with third-place runs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Circuit of The Americas standing as his best results of the season. He also notched six top-10s and an average finish of 7.1 in that stretch. That strong start propelled Bowman to the points lead for the first time in his career.
PHOTOS: Bowman, Harris tour Detroit Pistons facility
At the end of April, Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra competing in a spring car event in Iowa. He was sidelined for three points-paying races (two of which came at strong tracks for him in Dover Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway) as well as the All-Star Race. Josh Berry filled in on the No. 48 Chevy for those events. Bowman received a medical waiver that kept him playoff eligible and the 30-year-old driver returned to finish 12th in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. What followed was a summer stretch that saw promising runs spoiled by something going wrong. A stretch of 13 straight races without a top-10 finish left Bowman on the outside looking in of the playoffs.
Bowman earned two top-six finishes over the final three races of the regular season – a fifth-place run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and a sixth-place result at Daytona International Speedway. Unfortunately, that was not enough to get Bowman and the No. 48 team into the playoffs for the sixth straight year. Over the final 10 races of the season, he extended his streak to six straight seasons with double-digit top-10 finishes with an eighth-place run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
PHOTOS: Bowman takes the throne at Charlotte FC match
Off the track, Bowman and his primary partner Ally teamed up to bring back the Best Friends Animal Society donation effort. The duo donated $4,800 to a Best Friends network partner in each race market visited. He also created merch through Alex Bowman Racing to help raise money and awareness for those who struggle with mental health issues.
2023 SEASON STATS FOR BOWMAN
Top fives: 4
Top 10s: 10
Laps led: 89
Average finish: 17.2
Standings position: 20th
RELATED: Fast facts and stats from the 2023 season
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Team owner Rick Hendrick on Alex Bowman’s 2023 season:
"Alex (Bowman) was leading the points early in the year. Then, he gets hurt, they get behind and he has the worse luck. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody with any worse luck than Alex has had since he got back in the car.
"I told both he and Blake (Harris, crew chief), 'Look you’re running well. You got speed. What is important right now is momentum. Roll that into next year.' We’ll look in the rearview mirror at what happened this year. Bad luck is going to happen and I think they are right on the corner of breaking through."
Alex Bowman on looking ahead to the 2024 season:
"I am looking forward to hitting the reset button this offseason and coming back in 2024 and proving to everyone that we can run up front and be competitive like we did when we started this season. I can’t thank everyone back at the shop, all the great folks at Ally and my teammates for sticking with us in a tough year. We will be back and ready to take on next year."
RELATED: All of Alex Bowman's wins at Hendrick Motorsports
Bowman and Harris will be looking to find the rhythm and groove they had to start 2023, which was the driver’s best start to any season. The team and driver couldn’t quite find their footing following his injury, so a full reset this offseason should be beneficial for Bowman. In his second full season with former crew chief Greg Ives, Bowman earned his first Cup Series win. Earning Harris his first win atop the pit box in their second year together is certainly achievable.
Getting back to victory lane and the playoffs are the expectations for this group. Before 2023, Bowman had wins in four straight seasons and had made the postseason in five consecutive years. Advancing past the Round of 12 for the second time in his career would be a solid bounce-back season for him and the 48 team.