Race Weekend Central

Hendrick Motorsports, Drivers Indicate No Changes to Extracurricular Racing … For Now

DOVER, Del. – On April 25, Alex Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car crash at 34 Raceway.

That Tuesday night was Bowman’s 30th birthday, and it was announced the following day that he would be sidelined for at least three weeks; Josh Berry will drive the No. 48 car while Bowman recovers.

The incident occurred just two months after Chase Elliott was sidelined for six weeks with a fractured leg sustained in a snowboarding accident at the end of February, and Bowman’s crash reignited talks about extracurricular activities for drivers.

Jeff Andrews, the President and General Manager of Hendrick Motorsports addressed Bowman’s crash during a Saturday morning (April 29) press conference.

“I think from that aspect, we always discuss with them and have conversations, and there’s a process we have in place when they do want to run racing events outside of the Cup Series,” Andrews said. “That’s still in place. …

“It’s difficult, because it’s something Alex has a passion for, something he worked very hard to be better at, and we feel like it helped him over here in the Cup Series this year. Obviously, he’s having the best year of his career in the Cup Series. This is a temporary setback, and we look for him to come back strong.”

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While HMS’ extracurricular racing policy will remain in place, Andrews also stated that the team is in constant communication with the drivers about the process.

“But we’re always evaluating, we’re always knowledgeable in our conversations with drivers about what they’re doing and where they’re racing outside the Cup Series,” Andrews said. “Obviously, it’s a topic of conversation for us, we’ve had discussions with our guys about it since Alex’s accident. We’ll continue to have those talks, and as a group, we will make the best decision.

Bowman’s HMS teammate Kyle Larson has raced – and will race – just about anything when provided the opportunity, including an attempt at the Indianapolis 500 in 2024. And while Larson is aware of the risks in racing sprint cars on dirt, he believes that the superspeedways of Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are a far greater concern to him.

“I’ve heard [Jamie] McMurray on Race Hub, and Denny [Hamlin] was texting me this week,” Larson said. “And I appreciate the concern, but they all say that the odds will catch up to guys like me who race dirt. But I feel like the odds are more going to catch up to me eventually on a superspeedway.

“I’ve been close to being seriously hurt in 2013, I’ve flipped really hard at Talladega in [2019], I’ve broken a rib at Talladega, I’ve had a car come in my cockpit now at Talladega, and that’s just naming a few.

Ryan Blaney doesn’t have an extensive racing schedule like Bowman or Larson, but he would enjoying having one if the opportunity ever arose.

“Gosh, I haven’t really raced anything different in a long time,” Blaney said. “Did the SRX race last year, but that’s a little bit different from the sprint car stuff. I don’t think about that stuff much, because it’s not really on the table for me to do very much.

“I’d race every day of the week if I could. As a racer and competitor, that’s what you want to do.”

And as other drivers like Larson would attest to, Blaney reiterated about how the constant schedule of racing can sharpen a driver’s mind.

“[NASCAR] is obviously the main focus, but honestly, I think running other forms of racing and cars all the time, it keeps your mind and body kind of in that mode,” Blaney said.

Ross Chastain competes in partial NASCAR Xfinity Series and Craftsman Truck Series schedules for DGM Racing and Niece Motorsports, respectively, in addition to his Cup obligations with Trackhouse Racing Team. But when it comes to racing outside of NASCAR, Chastain has kept it to a minimum.

“It’s something we talk about, and I’ve put a lot of thought into it,” Chastain said. “I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize me driving this No. 1 car for a really long time. …

“We’ve had conversations across all the teams that I drive for. It’s a real risk. Driving race cars to the limit is dangerous, and we all understand that when we strap in and put our helmets on.”

Elliott, who returned from his injury at Martinsville Speedway on April 16, doesn’t believe that changes will be made to extracurricular schedules. He also equated the discussion about extracurricular racing to poor timing between the accidents.

“If one [injury] happened this year and one happened last year, would we be having the same conversation? Probably not.”

About the author

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Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch and is a three-year veteran of the site. His weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” He also writes commentary, contributes to podcasts, edits articles and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage.

Can find on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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