DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Alex Bowman is unsure when he can return to the track after fracturing his vertebrae in a short-track accident last month.
The Hendrick Motorsports racer has missed the past three events, including Sunday's Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. Bowman came to the track to reconnect with the team and gave an update on his health and what's ahead.
"Every day is a little different," Bowman said. "I feel way better than I did two weeks ago."
He'll return to the doctor Wednesday for more X-rays on the injury. Even with a good prognosis, Bowman said he doesn't know when he'll be back in the No. 48 Chevrolet again.
"We'll see how it's feeling and kind of go from there," he said.
The initial diagnosis call was for Bowman to miss three to four races. He has six top-10 finishes in his 10 races so far.
Bowman is the second Hendrick driver to miss time this season for an off-the-track activity. Past champion Chase Elliott missed six races this season after breaking his leg snowboarding. Elliott has run the past four races, his best finish a seventh place last week at Kansas.
Josh Berry has run eight races for Hendrick, five replacing Elliott and the past three in Bowman's place.
Bowman said the injury hurts most when he coughs, sneezes or laughs, anything where his body's vibrations impact the injured area.
He returned to the gym for modified workouts last week. Bowman said he could sit without too much discomfort in the car's driver's seat, but believes the jarring, up-and-down jack movements would be painful.
Bowman said he has hated missing races, but has no one to blame other than himself.
"It's pretty self-inflicted," he acknowledged on the steps of the No. 48 hauler. "It was my choice to go sprint car racing and I knew what I was signing up for."
Bowman said he wasn't sure what to expect from Hendrick Motorsports leadership, particularly after it dealt with Elliott's snowboarding accident. But he said the team and his sponsors have been supportive since the accident.
Bowman, who was hurt on his 30th birthday, said he believes that at some point he'll go back to sprint car racing, but added that he is mindful that missing time in the Cup Series is not in his or his team's best interest. Bowman missed five NASCAR races in 2022 because of a concussion sustained in an accident last fall at Texas Motor Speedway.
Bowman hopes that once he's given clearance to drive, he can keep himself in playoff position. He and his team are 15th in points, chasing a spot in the 16-driver playoffs. He has watched racers such as Kyle Busch overcome in-season injuries to make the postseason.
Bowman said he feels fortunate his injury was not more serious. He recalled the accident, remembering how he rolled several times before landing hard and hearing the crack of a back like a person might in a chiropractor's treatment.
"I don't think I'll ever go back to a chiropractor after hearing that sound," he said. "Other than that, I've crashed a race car, I've done it before, I'll do it again."