When Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, isn’t racing cars, he loves to work on them. He spoke with Athlon Sports about his fixation with taking perfectly good cars and making them even better.
What is it that you do with your cars?
I just like to tinker. I can’t leave anything alone. I’ve always been that way. I wouldn’t say rebuilding as much as modifying stuff, whether it’s making more power, doing different suspension stuff, doing different cosmetic stuff. I’ve got a couple cars like that that I tinker with.
How did you get started working on cars? I assume with your dad.
Yeah. My dad was a big car guy. He has a small auto body repair shop in Tucson. I grew up working in his shop. I fell in love with cars then. He’s quite a bit different than me. He likes things stock, exactly as they’re supposed to be. I’m the complete opposite of that.
What’s the craziest modification you’ve made?
That’s a tough one. I’ve had a couple cars that we put on air suspension. One in particular we had to cut all the inner fender work out of, pretty much ruined this entire car. It was still reliable, and we put it all back nice. That was pretty interesting for sure. People were like, “Are you crazy?” But it worked.
How do you find the projects that you’re going to work on?
Most of them are pretty impulsive. I was at a Christmas party with Mr. Hendrick, and he convinced me to buy a Corvette ZR1 that he had. That’s been a big project over the last few years. That car makes over 1,000 horsepower now. It’s a lot of fun. I wanted more of a daily driver, so I got a Cadillac CTS-V that we’re finishing up right now. That’s going to make around 800 horsepower. They start out as stock, perfectly good vehicles, and we turn them into something that’s a little over the top. But they’re a little more fun that way.
A little over the top? That’s an understatement. Your Cup car has about 850 horsepower. Now you’ve got something in your garage that’s got 1,000?
Yeah. My Corvette is definitely faster than any Cup car. That car is a really good car. It’s very drivable. I drive it to the shop quite a bit. It’s nothing crazy. It’s pretty neat to be able to make that much power and have it be reliable and streetable.
How many speeding tickets do you have in that car?
Zero. I’m going to knock on some wood right now. The only ticket I’ve gotten in that car is for window tint.
If you became a NASCAR car chief, would your 88 car be a) faster, b) way faster or c) so much faster they’d know you were cheating?
I’m going to go with C. Because I would definitely cheat somehow.
Without giving away any secrets, how so?
I would probably go back to the midget stuff that I run. [Bowman owns and races midget cars.] The cool thing about the Chili Bowl [the equivalent of the Super Bowl in midget racing] is there are no weight rules. We do a lot of stuff with making stuff lighter. I’d probably lighten some stuff up. If I built a Cup car, it would never pass tech, so you’d never even get it on the racetrack. But I would try, at least.
Does knowing what you know about cars help you as a driver? Is your knowledge of the car specific enough that you can ask for specific changes?
A little bit. I’d say my background is really in the open wheel stuff. When I went stock car racing, I worked with some people who didn’t really want me to communicate that way, so I didn’t really try to learn how to communicate that way. I didn’t ever try to fix my own racecar that way, I just tried to communicate what it was doing the best I could. When we go open wheel racing, yeah, it’s a big help.
—by Matt Crossman