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Alex Bowman gives update on health, timetable for return to NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman wasn’t in a car on Sunday after suffering a broken vertebra a few weeks ago, but he indicated at Darlington Raceway that he might be back in one soon.

How soon?

Like next week for North Wilkesboro Speedway?

No word on that yet.

“Some days I feel pretty good throughout the day and other days I’ll just move wrong or do things that kind of catch it, but I don’t have any estimated time of return,” Bowman told reporters outside his hauler in the infield of Darlington Raceway. “I have some doctor appointments this week and get some more X-rays to see how it’s healing and kind of can go from there. But yeah, I’m obviously mobile, super fortunate that the injury wasn’t worse than it was.”

Bowman added: “I haven’t had an X-ray since the injury. So like, until we do that and see how it’s healing. I just don’t know.”

His next doctor appointment is Wednesday, he said. Bowman also clarified that he fractured his T3, the vertebra is the third segment of the 12 thoracic vertebrae, and that he hasn’t been in a brace because the break is really high on his back.

But he’s been able to walk around, he said, and “keep himself busy” while Josh Berry runs in his No. 48 car and the rest of the Cup Series swirls on around him.

“I would say the most painful thing for me is laughing, coughing, sneezing or trying to sleep like laying down hurts pretty bad,” he said. “Standing up and walking around, it’s not so bad. I’ve been able to walk the whole time. So that’s been nice. I’ve kind of kept myself busy. This week, I was able to get back in the gym a little bit, which was really good because not working out for a couple weeks is like the worst thing in the world for me.”

Bowman suffered the injury on his 30th birthday, a few days after the Cup Series descended on Talladega. He was driving in a sprint car at the Iowa dirt track at 34 Raceway when he wrecked and started flying and tumbling through the air.

Hendrick Motorsports originally announced that he’d be out for three to four weeks. Darlington marks Week 3 without Bowman.

Bowman recounted on Sunday what he was thinking when he wrecked.

“The whole time I was flipping, I’m like, ‘Man, these things don’t hurt at all to crash,” he said. “Like the wing takes all the blows. And then when it landed, like, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a chiropractor, you hear your back crack. Like it sounded like that. And I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I just cracked my back.’

“Obviously, it was my back breaking but yeah, I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a chiropractor after that sound. But other than that, like it’s crashing the race car. I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again.”

Bowman has missed a lot of racing recently. He suffered a concussion in a playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway and missed five races last summer — and had his playoff run cut short — because of it.

The mental toll being out of a race car isn’t new to the competitor. But it still stings, Bowman said.

“It sucks. It sucks really bad, but it’s pretty self-inflicted,” Bowman said. “So you know, it was my choice to go sprint-car racing and I knew what I was signing up for. And yeah, it really sucks being outside of the race car, but everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has been super supportive, as well as everybody at Ally.”

One of the sport’s story lines this season revolved around driver safety. After all, Chase Elliott suffered a snowboarding accident that required immediate surgery in February that kept him out of a few races. Chase Briscoe broke a finger a few months while competing in a dirt race. And now Bowman hurt himself racing in another series.

The instances posed all the questions: Should organizations set policies that prohibit their Cup drivers from driving in other series? Should organizations police their drivers’ extracurricular activities?

Bowman shed his perspective on Sunday.

“Nobody’s really said anything to me,” Bowman said. “So you know, I’m super appreciative to be here at Hendrick Motorsports. I’m going to do whatever they are comfortable with and supportive of.”