Alex Bowman's No. 48 Chevrolet. (HHP/Chris Owens)

NASCAR Drivers & Extracurricular Activities: What’s The Line?

DOVER, Del. — For the second time this season, Hendrick Motorsports will be without one of its primary drivers due to injuries. 

In March, 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott was injured in a Colorado snowboarding accident that sidelined the 27-year-old for six races.

This past week, Alex Bowman was involved in a sprint car crash that will keep the driver of the No. 48 out of the seat for three to four races.

On Saturday morning at Dover Motor Speedway, HMS President and General Manager Jeff Andrews discussed the differences between the two situations despite the same result. 

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

“For this race, we were very aware of Alex’s schedule through the season for this sprint car. We look at Chase and Alex’s situation as two different situations.

“This is the first extracurricular racing accident that we’ve had that’s taken one of our drivers out here for three weeks. Chase’s situation was a snowboarding kind of recreational accident.”

Josh Berry (right), talks with Chase Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson at Dover. (James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Andrews said making a change to the team’s policies regarding what drivers can and can’t do off the track, is a slippery slope.

Andrews and HMS believe Bowman’s sprint car schedule, which includes the full High Limit Sprint Series slate, has aided the 30-year-old inside a Cup car. 

“We’re always looking at it. I think our message is – you know, be careful,” Andrews said. “It’s difficult because that’s something Alex has a passion for. Something that he’s worked very hard to be better at and we feel like it helped him over here in the Cup Series this year.

“He’s obviously 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. We’re always evaluating. We’re always knowledgeable in the conversations with our drivers about what they’re doing and where they’re racing outside of the Cup Series.

“Obviously it’s a topic of conversation for us,” Andrews continued. “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’ll make the best decisions.”

Another Opportunity For Berry

With Bowman on the sidelines, it brings another opportunity for full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series competitor Josh Berry. The JR Motorsports driver is set to pilot the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro at Dover along with the following races until Bowman is fully healthy. 

Berry subbed for Elliott earlier in the year for five of the six events he missed, with a best-finish of second at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. 

While it’s a welcome opportunity for the 32-year-old, the situation isn’t what he hoped another shot in a Cup Series car would be this season. 

“Obviously, I hate the circumstances once again,” Berry said. “Alex has been a friend to me. Like I said, it’s a difficult situation to step in again. I hate that for Alex. He’s been a friend to me over the last couple of years. You never want to see anyone injured like that.

“The reality of it is I feel a little bit more comfortable than where we were sitting in at Las Vegas; having a relationship with everyone at HMS and working through a handful of races with the No. 9.

“I’m ready to go today,” Berry continued. “We have a great opportunity in the Xfinity race today I feel like with the No. 8 car being the defending winners. We’re going to stay in the present; race these two races this weekend and see how it goes.”

After qualifying was rained out, Berry and the No. 48 HMS team will start Sunday’s Wurth 400 in 23rd position.