NASCAR’s Alex Bowman talks life with his dog, Roscoe, and winning humanitarian award

Alex Bowman met Roscoe when he was only 19.

The now-veteran NASCAR Cup Series playoff driver still has Roscoe more than 10 years later — and that rescued beagle mix has unexpectedly changed Bowman’s life.

Bowman has been named the Halifax Humane Society Humanitarian of the Year, an achievement that reflects all the NASCAR driver has done to help support animal shelters and other similar organizations across the country. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet will officially receive the award at the 11th annual FurBall Gala in Daytona Beach in December.

Bowman received the award thanks to extensive fundraising and generous donations of his own. With the help of Best Friends Animal Society and his primary sponsor, Ally, Bowman has donated to a Best Friends network partner in each market that the NASCAR Cup Series travels to.

This season, per a release from Hendrick Motorsports, Ally and Bowman have donated $4,800 a week, with that total increasing to $10,000 for each win he earns. (The playoff driver has won once this year with six Cup races left on the 2022 schedule.)

In an interview with The Charlotte Observer’s Alex Zietlow, Bowman discusses life with Roscoe, one of the biggest problems facing homeless dogs today and more. Below is part of the interview, edited for clarity and brevity.

Alex Bowman walks from his garage before qualifying in seventh position for the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
Alex Bowman walks from his garage before qualifying in seventh position for the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Bowman: Caring for homeless animals hits close to home

Zietlow: You’ll be racing in Talladega on Sunday. As Hurricane Ian makes landfall, are you nervous about any dogs or pets getting affected by the storms?

Bowman: I think any storms like that typically create a lot of issues for pets. Any time people have to evacuate, sometimes people can’t bring their pets, and that’s really scary and causes a lot of bad things. So hopefully all of the pets out there stay safe, and I definitely think it’s uncomfortable for me, seeing a hurricane come up toward North Carolina and having to leave town and not being with the dogs. So I can’t imagine what people are going through in Florida and everywhere that’s already been hit.

Zietlow: I don’t mean for you to rehash something that you’ve said 100 times. But do you mind telling me the story of how you got involved with the Halifax Humane Society, where you got your love of dogs from, that whole story?

Bowman: It definitely all stems from my rescue dog, Roscoe. I got Roscoe when I was 19 kinda randomly. There was a shelter pretty close to the race shop of the team that I was driving for at the time. And I and a couple people from the team went over there, and I wasn’t planning on getting a dog, and yet I left with a dog.

So it was definitely unexpected. Roscoe, he’s a handful (laughs), so I think that kind of stemmed it for me. When I started working with Ally last year, they asked what things are important to you and what causes do you want to support? And being able to support homeless pets was definitely a big thing for me. I never would’ve thought that we could’ve raised the amount of money that we’ve raised and all the things that we’ve done.

I feel like Ally and the team at Hendrick Motorsports, and kind of everyone who’s been involved with it (including) Best Friends — there are just way more people who have put way more work into it than I personally have. I’ve just been the face of it. And to raise this money and to get this award is pretty crazy to me. But it’s been awesome and definitely meaningful and hits close to home for me.

Zietlow: Can you expound on how it hits home for you?

Bowman: Having a rescue dog, and not knowing what Roscoe’s past really is, and kind of knowing the struggles I have with him and what he might have gone through and what other animals might have gone through — I’ve been to a lot of animal shelters in the last couple of years and seen some of the issues.

Obviously, COVID created a huge problem, where a ton of people adopted animals, and a ton of people brought the animals back when COVID was over. It made the problems that were already there even bigger. So it’s been tough. And it’s just something that I’m really passionate about. I feel like, “Dogs over people,” sometimes (laughs).

Zietlow: Did you grow up with a dog in your house?

Bowman: Yeah, so I had dogs growing up. But I feel that’s always different. Like you’re supposed to feed them or take care of them or clean up poop of theirs in the backyard (laughs), or whatever your chores are. But like that’s so different than being an adult and being the person who’s responsible for the animals. So obviously my bond with my two dogs, Roscoe and Finn (a Labrador retriever), is much different than it was when I was a kid with my dogs at home.

But I think that that started it on a much different level, though, than when you’re actually responsible for them.

Zietlow: There are a lot of virtuous things people can devote their time to. And you work in a field and in an industry that, particularly, is so demanding on your time. What makes working with dogs in this way so special for you?

Bowman: For me, it’s kind of like what I’ve said earlier, it’s just the thing that’s closest to home for me. Obviously, having a rescue dog and, you know, just being around that and kind of knowing what they’re going through and seeing the issue — for some reason it’s just something that I latched onto.

I would love to sit here and say that I’ve done some crazy hard work and done this and that, but honestly I’ve just gone to some shelters and been able to raise money off of T-shirt sales and some other things. You know, I partnered up with Ally to donate $4,800 a week to local shelters to whatever market we’re racing in. We’ve donated a lot of money and raised a lot of money. It hasn’t been this super difficult thing. It’s just been a natural fit and something that’s been enjoyable to do. And the work that we have done, and the shelter visits and all that has been natural and enjoyable. So it’s been really cool.