Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Bowman's drive to NASCAR's highest level swift, astonishing

January 26, 2014 12:01 am

This week, Greg Hansen delivers the goods on Alex Bowman's unreal rise to the Sprint Cup circuit, a pair of ASU basketball stars years apart receiving accolades, Arizona's swimming coach situation and Utah's rude introduction to Pac-12 travels.

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  • In July of 2012, Alex Bowman was fresh out of Ironwood Ridge High School, bunking three-to-a-room in an economy hotel for the Prairie Meadows 200 auto race in Altoona, Iowa.

    Now he’s sitting in car No. 23 on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, fully sponsored, awaiting a 40-race season in which he is scheduled to race at the Talladega, Watkins Glen, Daytona and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    “Sometimes it’s like a fantasy to me,” says his father, Sean Bowman, who operates a collision-repair business in Tucson. “We could never have thought he’d be there this soon.”

    Bowman will drive the No.  23 car for BK Racing, which recently added new sponsor Dr Pepper in a lucrative deal. He will be one of seven rookies on the NASCAR circuit, which opens Feb. 15 at Daytona.

    “When Alex was racing quarter-midgets a few years ago, he’d go to NASCAR races when we’d get access and was a huge fan of Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin,” Sean Bowman says. “Now he’s going to race against those guys every week. It’s hard to put your arms around.”

    Bowman’s ascent in auto racing has been astonishing. Two years ago he was Rookie of the Year on the ARCA circuit, racing in the Southern Illinois 100 at the Duquoin Fairgrounds. A year ago he was 11th overall on the NASCAR Nationwide circuit.

    Now he’s part of what is probably a $10 million-a-year investment by BK Racing, a deal that was in the works for three months.

    “The bottom line here is that BK wants to improve their team, and they think Alex has a good future,” Sean Bowman says. “It’s a lot of money. It’s the chance of a lifetime.”

  • Arizona State retired Eddie House’s No. 5 jersey at Saturday’s game against Colorado, placing it in the rafters next to the Big Four of Sun Devil basketball history: Fat LeverByron ScottJoe Caldwell and Lionel Hollins.

    To one who follows Arizona basketball, the response might be “Eddie House?”

    In his ASU career, House went 0-8 against the Wildcats. He averaged 12.1 points per game and shot .318 afield against Arizona. It’s not a surprise that many UA fans wouldn’t remember the name, even though House was the Pac-10’s 2000 Player of the Year.

    In House’s career, he was outscored 53-15 in two games by Gilbert Arenas and 83-36 in four games by Miles Simon. Neither Arenas nor Simon have their jersey numbers hanging in the McKale Center rafters. The UA’s requirements to honor a former player’s jersey go considerably beyond he-was-very-good. If the Wildcats lowered their standards, there might not be enough space on the walls to tack up the jerseys of Simon, Jason Terry, Damon Stoudamire and a few others who seem more than qualified.

  • For the first time since the Diamondbacks, Rockies and White Sox exited spring training in Tucson, there will not be a single game here this spring. That’s unfortunate because the Dodgers and Cubs drew a capacity crowd of over 11,000 at Kino Stadium last March, raising almost $120,000 for the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation. Because the Diamondbacks and Dodgers will play two games in Sydney, Australia, on March 22-23, they will both lose about 10 spring training dates in the greater Phoenix area this year. The D’backs have blacked out their Arizona spring training schedule from March 17-25.

  • Former Arizona swimming coach Eric Hansen and his staff broke NCAA rules when they held a practice on the night of Oct. 19, the same day the UA men’s team was stunned in a dual meet at Utah. But that’s not why Hansen took a leave of absence and ultimately resigned his position. The UA reported the practice to the NCAA; the coaching staff was not permitted on deck for two days as a penalty. Hansen’s resignation was connected strictly to personal issues.

  • If the timing were different, Salpointe grad Augie Busch might get strong (or stronger) consideration to be Arizona’s swimming coach. But Busch is in his first year as the head coach at Virginia, after spending two years as the head coach at Houston. Only Todd Graham would recommend another early exit. Busch’s staff at Virginia includes ex-UA swimmers Cory Chitwood and his brother, Sammy Busch.

  • Augie’s father, UA Hall of Fame swimming coach Frank Busch, is now director of the USA National swimming teams. He was in Geneva, Switzerland, on business last week. “I’d say I probably travel five times as much as when I was at Arizona,’’ he said. “I’m at well over 100,000 miles a year; that’s far more than a recruiting season for me at Arizona.’’

  • High school basketball note of the week: The Santa Rita girls basketball team is 11-167 since the start of the 2006-07 season, most of it mirrored by the school’s declining enrollment. The Eagles did not score a point in the second half against Palo Verde last week, losing 57-8. They were also held to eight points or less in four games last season. Times have surely changed: 30 years ago next month, Santa Rita went 28-0 to win the state championship for coach Dave Lynch, whose Arizona player of the year, Paula Pyers, would sometimes draw a near-capacity crowd at the Santa Rita gymnasium.

  • Tucson’s first NFL quarterback, Fred W. Enke is benefitting from the NFL’s care-giving package to ill and injured former players. He is paid $88,000 a year for in-home care by the league; he was a QB for the Lions, Colts and Eagles from 1948-54. “It’s a life-saver for us,’’ his daughter, Debbie Gundy says. “The plan is modeled after (ex-Colts tight end) John Mackay, who was disabled and needed extensive care late in his life.’’ Mackay wore No. 88 during his Hall of Fame career, hence the $88,000 per year. Enke required two shoulder replacements, two knee replacements and a hip replacement after his football days. He also had back surgery. NFL statistics indicate that he was sacked for 501 yards in losses during his career, all played without a facemask. At 89, Enke has dementia.

  • Sad to hear of the death of Salpointe’s 1972 state tennis singles champion Bruce Bueno, who was only 59 when he died last week. Bueno was the first Salpointe tennis player to win a state title, breaking the Catalina dynasty that had produced state champs Mark HardyRobb Salant and Eric Evett in the 1960s.

  • CDO and UA baseball product Brian Anderson is hoping to come out of retirement and play major-league baseball again. Anderson last played 89 games for the White Sox and Red Sox in 2009, then converted to pitching in the minor leagues for parts of three seasons. He was selected No. 15 overall in the 2003 draft, by the White Sox. He is 31 and is negotiating to get into spring training with several teams.

  • The UA will not have the services of Pima College All-American outfielder Gemma Contreras when the softball season begins next month. She has left the team after hitting .388 with 39 stolen bases for a Pima team that finished No. 3 in the nation last year. The UA, which is not ranked in the coaches’ pre-season Top 25 for the first time in 25 years, is to play Grand Canyon on Feb. 13. That must mean the boycott of GCU teams, initiated by Arizona State, didn’t catch on. Cal, Utah and Arizona are all playing the Antelopes in softball this season.

  • OB Sports will take over daily operation of the five Tucson City Golf courses this week, although the city will pay OB Sports $240,000 this year and still have financial liability for employees and capital projects. The good news is that OB Sports has hired Wade Dunagan to be part of the management firm. Dunagan has been the head golf pro at such properties as TPC Sawgrass, the Tucson Country Club and The Gallery Golf Club, and he was also the executive director of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships. The former UA golf standout exhibited high standards in those positions; high standards have been not always been part of the Tucson City Golf operation, which was often criticized for poor playing conditions, lack of modern equipment and an ineffective approach to food and beverage service.

  • Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak arrives at McKale Center tonight with a career 1-20 record on the Pac-12 road. It’s part of the painful process of moving from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12, and Coach K (well, not the real Coach K) shares the grief of that transition. Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham is 3-10 in Pac-12 road games since leaving the MWC. Utah baseball coach Bill Kinneberg is 14-46 in the Pac-12 and Utah softball coach Amy Hogue is 9-39 in the new conference. But I still think, over the next 10 years, the Utes will become a first-division basketball team, climbing past Colorado in both success and attendance.

  • Coach Jim Anderson’s UA men’s golf team opens its second spring season under the coach on Monday, and they'll be at the new Sewailo Golf Course at Casino del Sol. Workers on Friday painted a large “A’’ near the No. 1 tee to proceed the Arizona Intercollegiate Championship. The Wildcats, long a national power, are not ranked in Golfweek’s Top 100 opening the season, but help is on the way. Tucsonan George Cunningham, who has signed to play at Arizona next year, played himself into Monday’s qualifying portion of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Cunningham is home-schooled and said by Golfweek to be one of the 10 leading recruits in the country.

  • Arizona State sophomore point guard Jahii Carson surpassed 1,000 career points on Saturday against Colorado. Here’s how good that is: Sean Elliott scored 1,077 points in his first two Arizona seasons, averaging 17.4 per game.

    Carson is averaging 19 points in his career. The big difference is that Carson is likely to leave ASU without ever having played in an NCAA tournament game. At Arizona, Elliott scored 236 points in the NCAA tournament, averaging 23.6 per game, and never fewer than 17 in any of those 10 games.

    It’s always fun to be The Man, as Carson is, and a joy to know the green light is always on.

    But playing in just one meaningful game in March Madness could trump all of those shoot-it-up nights against Utah and Washington State.

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