Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, has missed the past 3 NASCAR Cup Series races (along with this past weekend’s All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro) after fracturing a vertebra during a scary crash in a sprint car race at 34 Speedway in West Burlington, Iowa.
But Hendrick has announced that after completing a 170-lap NASCAR medical evaluation test at North Wilkesboro on Tuesday, Bowman has been cleared to slide back into the seat at this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Bowman was 9th in the point standings prior to his injury, but even after missing three points races is still sitting 17th, just one spot outside of the cutoff for the NASCAR playoffs. The driver was granted a medical waiver to remain eligible for the playoffs despite not competing in all of the races.
While Bowman was out of the car, Xfinity Series driver Josh Berry piloted the #48, and continued to impress as he racked up a top 10 finish at Dover and won the All-Star Open to transfer into the main event this past weekend.
Berry’s stock is clearly high as he’s been the go-to substitute driver for Hendrick Motorsports this season, filling in for Chase Elliott earlier this year when he was injured during a snowboarding accident.
It’s likely that Berry will be moving to a full-time Cup Series ride after this season, with rumors having him as the top candidate to replace NASCAR legend Kevin Harvick in the #4 car for Stewart Haas Racing when Harvick retires at the end of the season.
But for now, Hendrick is excited to have their full-time driver back:
“It’s a boost for all of us to have Alex return to the No. 48 car this weekend at our home track.
He’s still 17th in points, which says a lot about how well the team performed at the start of the year. Alex has worked hard to rehab the injury and come back strong, and I look for him to continue having a championship-caliber season.”
Bowman will be returning for the longest race of the year, so he’ll definitely be putting his recovery to the test when he hits the track for 600 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And while he’s not necessarily in a “must-win” position being only one position out of the playoff bubble, it definitely puts the pressure on the team to perform the rest of the season to secure their spot in the postseason.
Of course after having to watch his ride on TV for four weeks, I have a feeling Bowman is ready for the challenge.