Western swing - Bowman on Texas injury, recovery and Phoenix return

Medically cleared to return to NASCAR Cup Series competition next weekend, a healed Alex Bowman returned to the racetrack Sunday for the first time since suffering a concussion last month. Bowman admitted he didn’t initially realize he was seriously hurt after the crash at Texas Motor Speedway. Over the radio, he told his Hendrick Motorsports team it was the hardest he’s ever crashed after spinning and backing his Chevrolet into the wall, but he finished the race. It wasn’t until late in the week that Bowman sought medical attention and the concussion was quickly diagnosed. He was cleared earlier this week but will be a spectator once more at Martinsville Speedway as Noah Gragson finishes his stint as Bowman’s substitute driver. “It’s been a long process, for sure,” Bowman said. “Sunday , obviously, I didn’t feel good. Monday, I didn’t feel great. But it was hard for me to identify what was really going on because typically, Mondays after a race, when it’s that hot, you feel bad anyway — dehydrated or whatever. Tuesday, I felt great. I made like three laps in a sprint car on Tuesday for an Ally deal. I felt great through that; I felt totally normal. Wednesday, I had a crazy busy day, and by the end of the day, I was feeling pretty bad and felt really bad in front of screens and stuff like that. That’s when I kind of identified what was going on and went to see the doctors and went from there.” Despite not being able to race, Bowman continued his regular training routine but, for his recovery, had to add work for his ocular and vestibular systems. He worked with Dr. Micky Collins, the clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. “I got more text messages and advice than I knew what to deal with, honestly,” Bowman said. “But I feel 100 percent. I’ve been training harder than ever for the last couple of weeks, honestly, so I’m probably in a better spot than I was before I crashed.” As all concussions are different, Bowman didn’t have some of the symptoms others have suffered. He said he was never nauseous but had a lot of pressure in his eyes that he compared to the same feeling as a bad sinus headache. That symptom tended to hit him after a workout or during busy schedules. “That was the biggest thing that took a while,” he explained. “From what the doctors said, the concussion kind of hurts the weakest points of your body. I had some vision stuff going — my vision is not weak, but Micky said, ‘Concussions fight dirty.’ So it went for a weak point for me and messed with my ocular system, and I think that took the longest to recover from.” Asked if he felt the concussion was a result of more than one hit this season, he said he didn’t think so. The crash at Texas was a rear-end impact, which also sidelined Kurt Busch with a concussion after he spun and hit the wall at Pocono Raceway with the rear of his car. Drivers have been outspoken all season that the new car is stiffer. Busch was one driver whom Bowman heard from after the Texas crash. Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kevin Harvick were others who reached out. “Looking back, it was a tough situation,” Bowman said. “I’m in the middle of the playoffs, and I’m not a doctor (so) did I just get my bell rung? Do I have a concussion? I don’t know what’s going on or what that feels like. I’m glad nothing else happened throughout the rest of the day (in Texas), and it all ended up being OK, but it’s a bummer. I think it’s just part of the Next Gen car; it’s so tough. The car wasn’t very damaged at all, so we were able to keep going and honestly keep going at a speed that we would have been OK if we weren’t laps down.” Having to watch someone else drive his race car didn’t feel good either. He said it was the toughest part of the process. “That’s not fun by any means,” he said. “It was really interesting, honestly. At first, you kind of feel…not forgotten about, but it’s just weird not going to the racetrack. All I’ve ever known is racing, so when you’re not going, having to do different things on a weekend is weird, like driving around and realizing that there are people in the world that don’t know there’s a NASCAR race going on. That was a weird thing for me. I’m at the grocery store and I’m like, man, none of these people know there’s a race going on right now. That was part of it was weird. Weekends were weird. It’s weird being here today.” Bowman will likely spend time with the team at the No. 48 pit box during the Martinsville race before finishing the year in the Ally Chevrolet when he rejoins the field at Phoenix Raceway — his home track. It was a goal he could work toward, and it will be his final race with crew chief Greg Ives. “I’ve worked really hard and I think, if I didn’t have the possibility to get back this year, it would have been easier to push (the workouts and recovery) off and not worked as hard,” Bowman said of coming back for one race. “On top of that, the doctors have said I’m 100 percent, so I think if there was any hesitation there, it would be different. “But there was a lot of motivation to get back for a Phoenix race,” he continued. “My last race with Greg as a crew chief. I didn’t want to go out how Texas went with Greg, and I don’t want to sit all offseason questioning it. I want to get back in the race car. When the doctors said I was 100 percent, I trust them. I’m going off what they say, and I don’t think there was any hesitation there. They said I’m good to go.”