By: Ashley McCubbin
Going into the short tracks in 2021, the No. 48 Ally Racing Chevrolet was not a card particularly chosen as someone to watch for the victory. The point was only stressed when Alex Bowman himself said, “I kind of drives the race track wrong; I can’t figure out how to force myself not to.”
Though three short tracks in the books and Bowman became the driver the field was focused on. Bowman showed speed on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway prior to a transmission issue, and ran inside the top-five at Martinsville Speedway before a pit road penalty mired him in traffic, resulting in a crash.
Everything came together at Richmond Raceway, as Bowman ran inside the top-five all day long, emerging as the race leader on a late restart with 10 laps to go to score the win.
The recent success is a result of the team going about it their way. Rather than following the conventional wisdom, Greg Ives elected to go his own route and develop a set-up focused more on his driver. It’s not the simple easy decision to make, though, as if it backfires it becomes embarrassing with having watched Hendrick Motorsports lead all organizations in victories at Martinsville (24).
But it was a decision they knew they needed to, as a result of different backgrounds. Chase Elliott proved to know his way around the paperclip with a win last fall, and honed those skills in super late models, whereas Bowman started his career in midgets.
“When we go to short tracks, we all kind of point to Chase. He’s been the most successful lately,” Bowman told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Chase and I have really different driving styles at the short tracks. So, it’s hard for us when we have one car that’s really successful there and we’ve kind of struggled to go a different direction. But I think it’s something I feel like Greg (Ives, Crew Chief) realized that we needed to do. I was never going to be able to copy Chase’s driving style and it’s worked out here recently.
“So, I’m appreciative of him sticking with me and knowing I ask a lot out of the racecar at short tracks and want different things than most. But we’ve been able to figure out how to make it work.”
The success on the short tracks just adds to Bowman’s numbers this season, with four top-10’s through 10 races, and more easily possible without penalties and incidents plaguing a couple of those performances. Combined with Hendrick Motorsports placing a car in the top-five on a weekly basis, and sometimes more than one, everything seems to be falling in place.
“It’s really cool to see that,” Bowman commented. “The atmosphere in the company is amazing. Everybody is working really well together. A lot of new faces and everybody has really clicked. For us, it was a rough start to the year. Obviously, we got the pole at Daytona; crashed like 12 laps in. From there, we had some rough weeks. We had a lot of speed, but just really couldn’t put races together. I felt like Bristol and Martinsville, we had cars capable of winning. Obviously, didn’t get the job done at either of those; broke a transmission at Bristol and then, Martinsville, we got crashed.
“It’s been rougher than we wanted and rougher than what we wanted for Ally. But going to Richmond, we just wanted a good, solid top-10 and to come out of there with a win, I think it’s a good point in the year to kind of get pointed in the right direction and hopefully we can carry that through the summer and into the Playoffs.”
Knowing he is likely locked into the playoffs with the victory, the focus for the No. 48 team is building on those numbers with more wins and being consistent through the summer.
“It’s something we’ve struggled to do the last two years, really,” he reflected. “We’ve fallen off through the summer. So, we want to continue to be as strong as we are right now and win more races before the Playoffs start.”