World of Outlaws
World of Outlaws Opener Challenged by Tricky, Heavy Track
Feb 11, 2022
Alex Bowman says his maximum heart rate bpm was once registered around 195, and that it was running 183 right before the start of the World of Outlaws season opener on Thursday night at Volusia Speedway Park.
Translation: Making his debut start with the Greatest Show on Dirt would have been a big deal under any circumstance, but it was especially nerve-wracking under these.
A month of above average rainfall had absolutely wrecked the new surface at the venerable Florida half-mile and produced a track that was physically challenging and blinded drivers with massive clumps of mud throughout the day.
Bowman knows what he’s doing on dirt, but this is the biggest weekly stage in the discipline, and these were not normal conditions.
"As intimidating as Volusia would be for your fourth or fifth ever Sprint Car race, let alone an Outlaws show on the roughest night ever, that was a little bit intimidating."
Still, it was quite the accomplishment as Bowman made the feature in his debut appearance on a night where 10 drivers did not make the main event in just his overall ‘fourth or fifth’ start in a 410 Sprint Car. He finished 21st in the feature and brought the car back in one piece. It was a testament to crew chief Joe Gaerte but also the skill set Bowman has developed racing Midgets over the past 15 years.
"I have a really good race car and Joe does a really good job of getting it dialed in," Bowman said. "The race car probably carried me a little bit tonight. I should have run really good as decent as we were. It was really cool."
Back to heartrate, Bowman was nervously excited because racing at the World of Outlaws level had been a dream for a long time. First came his own Midget program over a decade ago which expanded into 410s in 2020.
Bowman has raced in the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, and said taking a four-wide salute with the Outlaws at Volusia in his first attempt was an unbelievable accomplishment.
"I never thought we would have come here and made the show," Bowman said. "To be a part of all of that was really special. I’m a huge race fan so I’ve always watched the World of Outlaws. To be a small part of it was special and hopefully we can do it a few more times this weekend."
Bowman hopes to make 30-35 starts on dirt this year between his Midget and Sprint Car programs. He hopes to replicate the success of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson, who has made the case to Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon on how extracurricular racing can translate to Cup Series performance in winning the NASCAR championship.
Ultimately, the 28-year-old just wants to improve his race craft at all levels, and a 410 Sprint Car certainly sharpens the instincts.
"I want to use it as a tool to get better on Sundays," Bowman said. "These cars act so fast, react so fast that it slows everything else down. I felt like I was going seven billion miles per hour after coming from the (Los Angeles) Coliseum to here.
"So, I’m glad I did it because I think it’s going to feel a lot more tame when I get to Daytona after this."