CONCORD, N.C. — When Alex Bowman first posted an image of a winged sprint car in his race shop to social media on Oct. 22, fans immediately wondered when it would hit the dirt for the first time.
Bowman answered those questions the next day, when he and his primary driver — 2019 USAC National Sprint Car Series champion C.J. Leary — went out for a short test session at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
The NASCAR Cup Series driver, who was eliminated from the playoffs Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, told Sprint Car & Midget late last week that the program didn’t come together in time to make an run at this weekend’s World of Outlaws Last Call, but he has big plans for the future.
Those big plans, however, started as an idea developed purely out of “pandemic boredom,” according to Bowman.
“We had talked about (building a winged car) over the last couple of years and this year with the pandemic, there was a lot of free time and I bit off a ton of projects during that time,” said Bowman, who also admitted he built a drift car during the COVID-19 break as well. “This is just one of those things, with everything that was going on with C.J. (Leary) and him shuffling rides and stuff, that just seemed to make sense to all of us.
“We discussed building a non-winged car, and then I said, ‘Well, If I’m going to do it, I should just build a winged car so we can actually go and race for (bigger) money and have some more opportunities to race on a bigger scale,” Bowman added. “So I decided to build a winged car and that’s where we ended up.”
While building the car was always on the agenda, jumping behind the wheel himself wasn’t necessarily in Bowman’s script.
After Leary turned some hot laps at the four-tenths-mile dirt track, however, the itch to drive grew too strong for Bowman to ignore.
“That was something that I’d always wanted to do,” said Bowman of hustling his 410 sprint car. “I’ve always wanted to drive a winged sprint car and had never driven one, so after we got rolling pretty well with C.J. and there was some time to kill … I knew I had my stuff there and the track was kind of easy through the middle, so it was like, well, why not go do it?
“I ran a couple of laps and it was really cool. The thought process to race those cars and how quickly everything happens behind the wheel has got to be pretty crazy, because they’re just so fast,” Bowman continued. “It’s hard to describe just how fast they are and how much grip they have. But it was a lot of fun and I do want to race one someday; it won’t be any time in the near future, but someday, for sure.”
Bowman said he plans to debut his winged sprint car program during the recently announced Wild Wing Shootout at Arizona Speedway in late January. Leary will drive.
After that, future dates are unclear, but Bowman was steadfast in his assertion that fans can expect to see Leary driving for his team whenever it makes sense for them to compete together.
“I think the biggest thing C.J. brings to the table for me is the mechanical knowledge that he has and just the fact that he’s really hard working,” Bowman noted. “He’s not like the kids that show up and put their seats in the car; he’s really hands-on with the cars and really knowledgeable with the setup stuff. Obviously, he does a lot of his own work and takes care of his own race cars, so I feel like we’re a lot alike in that sense and I really appreciate that.
“He’s also just a really talented race car driver, as evidenced by him winning the sprint car championship last year, as well as the fact that we’ve been really successful together at the Chili Bowl. C.J. and I just have a lot of fun together,” Bowman continued. “His group of friends, they’re really good people and we’ve all become really close friends and enjoy hanging out and going racing together. It’s a good fit.”
With a largely blank slate as far as scheduling is concerned, Bowman noted he doesn’t plan for his team to reach full-time status, mainly because he wants to be as involved as possible when his team is racing.
“For the most part, it’ll roll out when it fits in my schedule,” Bowman said. “It’s one of those deals where I like to be really hands-on with it. I don’t have employees or people that take care of it or people to drive it to the race track and stuff like that. I’ll probably go to Arizona with it, right after Chili Bowl, for those three winged shows out there … and from there, I really don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll go to Volusia or not. I have a little bit of help on it, so maybe we’ll get it down there, but I just kind of have to wait and see.
“You can easily run into some unforeseen issues with trying to go winged sprint car racing. We learned quickly that my trailer is not tall enough, so that was a big thing to work through,” Bowman explained. “We have to get a new trailer, which I didn’t expect to have to do, so there’s a lot that goes into a project like this. For me, I really want to go Outlaw racing, and the shows that I do go to I’d like to be some bigger shows. It’s just about being prepared to try to attempt to run with those guys. You really have to be on top of your game and have the right parts and pieces together. Hopefully, we can do that.
“Right now, I know we’re going racing in January. I don’t really know what’s next after that.”