VENTURA, Calif. – Alex Bowman had a lot to be thankful for over the Thanksgiving holiday, but one thing near the top of that list isn’t actually happening for another two months.
Bowman confirmed to SPEED SPORT during the 78th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway that he will field a two-car effort during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January, piloting a midget of his own as a teammate to C.J. Leary, who drove for Bowman at the Chili Bowl in 2018.
“It’s going to be fun to get back in a race car at the Chili Bowl. Hopefully I don’t suck too badly,” Bowman joked. “I’m excited to get back in (a midget), particularly since it’s been a couple of years and I really enjoy those cars. I like working on them too, but driving them is a blast and January can’t get here soon enough.”
The 25-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., last raced at Tulsa Expo Raceway in 2016, finishing 13th in his E-Feature on championship night.
“We were quick (two years ago); I was just really rusty,” Bowman recalled. “It had been since … 2012, I think, that I had been in a midget … so there was a curve to overcome to get back acclimated to those cars, in all honesty.
“It’ll probably be more of the same this year, but hopefully we run okay.”
For Bowman, midget racing is his golf game – it’s a way to get away from the rigors of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series duties for Hendrick Motorsports – even though, in this case, the Chili Bowl is annually held during the NASCAR offseason.
“It’s just stress-free and a lot of fun,” said Bowman of racing the midgets. “With these cars, there’s a lot of room for innovation and the rulebook is a couple pages long, instead of a couple hundred pages long.
“It’s just fun, especially at Chili Bowl, where there’s no rulebook and you can pretty much do whatever you want to. It gives me something to do and keeps me out of trouble throughout the year.”
Leary returns to Alex Bowman Racing following a solid performance on his preliminary night during this year’s Chili Bowl, though he failed to finish in the B-main on Saturday night during the finale.
He believes that extra track time with the team this year – which began at Ventura during the Turkey Night Grand Prix – will help him make a more-concerted run at the championship feature this time.
“Getting to run for Alex at Turkey Night, and then going forward to Gateway and DuQuoin before we get to the Chili Bowl, has me confident that we can not only make the show, we can have a chance at winning the thing,” said Leary. “Last year, we had motor issues and other troubles that we had to fight through, but we were looking good at transferring to the A through our prelim night and the driver stepped on it.
“To have another shot to come back this year and represent Alex and Valvoline and all the folks that make this team go is really cool,” he added. “It’s an awesome opportunity and hopefully we can capitalize on it.”
With the speed that his team has had with Leary in recent outings, Bowman believes that he’s primed for success as a car owner in January, even if he’s keeping his own driving expectations realistic.
“For me driving, I’d like to make the (preliminary) A-main on my night, and hopefully land in a C or a D on championship night,” Bowman noted. “We’ve been in the B for the last two years with C.J.’s car and had the speed to be in the A, but haven’t had the luck to get it done.
“If we can get C.J. in the A, I think we have as good of a shot as anyone to win the thing.”