Regrettably, Alex Bowman has not stored his promise.
Two many years back, the Hendrick Motorsports driver created a guess with buddy Aaron Gillespie: if Bowman gained NASCAR’s Auto Club 400 at the Automobile Club Speedway in Fontana, he’d get an “88” tattooed on his neck, a tribute to the car he drove at the time.
Absolutely sure sufficient, March 1 rolled all around and Bowman dominated, foremost 110 out of 200 laps in a convincing victory. But he hardly ever designed it to a tattoo parlor. He experienced a fair justification — the pandemic shut down indoor enterprises in just a matter of times soon after his acquire.
“I just could not get booked,” Bowman mentioned. “I guess I owe [Gillespie] on that.”
Just after Vehicle Club was taken off very last season’s Cup Sequence agenda due to the fact of COVID-19, its reigning winner Bowman will have a new prospect to protect his crown on Sunday and lastly go to that tattoo parlor. The ink on his neck would seem slightly unique, though — he’s driving the 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports this time.
For motorists these kinds of as Bowman, Sunday is a wistful reunion with an outdated pal. Fontana is just one of the favored tracks on NASCAR’s timetable for those behind the wheel, a study course celebrating its 25th anniversary race this time.
“There are so several issues you can do to manipulate the racecar, to go all over involving the distinct lanes, the seams, the bumps,” Bowman claimed. “A whole lot of places we go, you’re locked into what you have, and there is nothing you can actually do. Fontana has so a great deal character that you can transfer around and adjust points.”
The calendar year absent from individuals lanes, seams and bumps, even so, provides a degree of uncertainty for motorists.
Rookie Austin Cindric arrived away with a thrilling surprise gain in the year-opening race at the Daytona 500 — this kind of an not known commodity that his very last title was misspelled “Cendric” on his garage at the race. Even with the vivid-eyed 23-year-old’s newness to the Cup Collection scene, on the other hand, he had some track record from racing at Daytona in 2021. He has minor strategy what to assume up in Fontana, with all its patchy runway.
“It’ll be attention-grabbing to see how a great deal it is aged over the very last few years,” Cindric mentioned. “I assume that is almost certainly a large question mark for a lot of the drivers … good deal of different variables to fork out awareness to, and not a ton of time to prepare for it.”
The only prep time motorists will have, in simple fact, is a about thirty-moment observe adopted by a qualifying spherical on Saturday. That leaves an open area for the leading contenders heading in.
Bowman will look to reassert himself at Car Club immediately after a ho-hum exertion to open up the time at Daytona. Kyle Busch, the active chief in Fontana victories with wins in 2005, 2013, 2014 and 2019, is often a threat. Preserve an eye on previous season’s Cup Collection winner, Kyle Larson, who was presented the best odds by NASCAR.com to win at Fontana and could roar back again onto the scene soon after an accident at Daytona brought about a 32nd-put end.
Bowman’s good results in 2020, he mentioned, arrived in big portion simply because of his comfortability with a swift motor vehicle exactly where aspect drive pushed versus a loose appropriate rear tire. One more variable to this season’s Car Club mix, nevertheless, is the introduction of NASCAR’s NextGen motor vehicle.
In Bowman’s working experience, he explained, this new product is “unhappy” when the rear tire is loose, inclined to spinouts. He and his group can not depend on the exact same system for a victory as they did two many years in the past.
“The bumps are likely to have an affect on it very a bit more,” Bowman stated of the NextGen car or truck. “It’s just heading to be way various than everything we’ve had there in the past. Attempting to discover that balance is going to be seriously difficult.”
Veteran Kevin Harvick, who gained at Fontana in 2011, mentioned the vehicle can establish “aggressive tire wear” in selected situations and motorists will need to have to put together accordingly with the abrasiveness of Fontana’s asphalt. Harvick stated that resin will be laid at the corners of the keep track of to support enhance that tire wear.
“I believe you are nonetheless going to have some men and women spinning out and managing way off, simply because you are definitely guessing as to what you consider the stability of the automobile requirements to be,” Harvick mentioned.
Whoever can very best uncover that equilibrium at Car Club could slide into the driver’s seat in the early-time thrust for the major of the Cup Collection rankings.
“Fontana itself — genuinely, our West Coast wing concerning Fontana and Vegas and Phoenix — is in which we’re likely to see who has the edge with this new motor vehicle,” Cindric mentioned.
If Bowman can determine out the NextGen’s aerodynamics in time for Fontana, he’s nonetheless received a guess to entire.
Note: The Intelligent Electric power 400 kicks off at 12:30 Sunday. Tickets are even now readily available, ranging from $40 to $150. Collective Soul will accomplish in the event’s Admirer Zone at 10:30 Sunday, which also characteristics a new 80-foot mobile gaming truck for attendees.