FENWICK: Drivers Worth Taking A Chance On

Alex Bowman is one of several drivers deserving of an opportunity in NASCAR. (HHP/Alan Marler Photo)
Alex Bowman is one of several drivers deserving of an opportunity in NASCAR. (HHP/Alan Marler Photo)
Adam Fenwick
Adam Fenwick

CONCORD, N.C. — Someone needed to hire Chase Briscoe and they did.

The 22-year-old driver who hails from Mitchell, Ind., dominated the ARCA Racing Series while driving for Cunningham Motorsports last year, but when we began writing this column, he still had no public deal for this season.

A few days later that changed when Briscoe was hired by Ford Motor Co. as its first development driver and was assigned to the Brad Keselowski Racing NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride.

While we understand racing costs money, sometimes owners should take a chance on a driver because he or she is talented. Briscoe is a prime example of the kind of driver that deserves an opportunity like the one he got last year with Cunningham Motorsports. Taking a chance on Briscoe resulted in six victories and the ARCA Racing Series title.

In his first full season of racing stock cars, Briscoe undeniably proved he has what it takes to be competitive and win races.
Briscoe made the most of his time with Cunningham Motorsports, turning into a Ford-supported ride — an opportunity the son of veteran sprint car racer Kevin Briscoe could have only dreamed of a few seasons ago.

Unlike Briscoe, one driver who remains on the sidelines this season is Alex Bowman. The 23-year-old native of Tucson, Ariz., impressed everyone in a substitute role for Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Hendrick Motorsports last year.

In fact, he had a legitimate shot at winning the penultimate race of the NASCAR Cup Series season at Arizona’s Phoenix Int’l Raceway. Were it not for some late-race bad luck and contact with race leader Matt Kenseth, Bowman may have won. Still, he led the most laps and finished sixth.

Bowman has been on the short end of the proverbial stick for several years now. He won races in the ARCA Racing Series — ironically driving for Cunningham Motor­sports — before advancing into NASCAR.

He ran a pair of full-time premier series seasons in 2014 and ’15 for Tommy Baldwin Racing in uncompetitive equipment, but his opportunity with Hendrick Motorsports proved that given good equipment he is up to the task.

Someone needs to hire Bowman and put him in equipment worthy of his talent. It may not happen this year, but Bowman deserves the opportunity more than almost any other driver currently active in NASCAR.

We hated to hear that Atlanta Motor Speedway officials have decided to repave the 1.5-mile surface at the historic venue. The track, last repaved in 1997, has possibly the best racing surface of any superspeedway on the NASCAR circuit.

It’s well known that the older the racing surface gets, the slicker it becomes. Atlanta’s asphalt has multiple racing grooves that allow drivers to race up against the wall, in the middle of the track or at the bottom. That in turn leads to incredible racing and one only needs look back at the last 20 years worth of events at the 1.5-mile superspeedway to back up that statement.

Even last season at Atlanta Motor Speedway saw some incredible racing, particularly in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race won by John Hunter Nemechek. We need more old, abrasive track surfaces like the one at Atlanta.

Hopefully, the new surface track officials plan to lay down retains some of the traits of the old surface and the racing stays just as exciting as it has been in recent years.

On a more positive note, if you’re looking for a new auto racing book to check out, we absolutely must recommend “Can-Am 50th Anniver­sary, Flat Out with North America’s Greatest Race Series 1966-’74” by legendary automotive journalist George Levy.

Released last year, the book details the history of the legendary Can-Am Series. For those unfamiliar, the series was created with the intent to innovate. With limited rules, teams were encouraged to think outside the box and create the most unique racing machines possible.

Racers and manufacturers from all over the world competed in the series. Brands such as McLaren, Ford, Lola, Porsche and Ferrari battled for superiority with drivers like Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue and Dan Gurney, just to name a few. Who wouldn’t want to see that race?

Levy takes a look back at the historic series, which ran from 1966 until ’74, in this fine 256-page book. Featuring photos from ace photographer Pete Biro, the book not only tells the history of the series in great detail, but has the photography to match.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in reading, visit QuartoKnows.com to find out more. We highly recommend it.