Alex Bowman will replace Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the No. 88 car in 2018, Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday. Bowman drove the 88 Chevy for 10 races 2016 when Earnhardt was sidelined by a concussion. In a statement released by the team,Bowman said
Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do. I’ve had so many people believe in me along the way. My family has sacrificed a lot and always been behind me. I would never have this chance without the support of Dale and everyone involved with the No. 88 team. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it’s just amazing… It means the world that they have faith in me, and I’m thankful to have them on my side. Now I just want to go win.
Ready to go win some races. Thanks to everybody for all the support. Never thought this day would come. Driving the 88 in 2018! pic.twitter.com/NxDEm2v4CG
— Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) July 20, 2017
Rick Hendrick: “Alex Impressed the Heck Out Of Us Last Year”
Team Owner Rick Hendrick said in a Thursday morning press release,
Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism. He stepped up in a very demanding situation and showed that he can run with the best and compete for wins,” Hendrick said of Bowman. “His ability to stay focused through it all, and the way he’s handled himself since then, has shown a lot of character. Greg and the team loved working with Alex, and that dynamic will get even better with more time together.
Bowman’s performance in the No. 88 last year so impressed Hendrick that he signed him to a contract after Earnhardt was medically cleared to return to racing last December,even though he didn’t have any open driver slots.
Bowman has been working in the simulation department at Hendrick in 2017 where he helps develop and fine-tune chassis setups
Nationwide Insurance will continue serving as primary sponsor for the No. 88 team in 19 of 36 races in 2018. Axalta will be the primary sponsor in 15 races,an increase from 13 in 2017.
Earnhardt,Gordon,and Johnson Endorsed Bowman To Take Over The 88 Car In 2018
Dale Earnhardt, Jr has been a vocal advocate of giving Bowman his ride in 2018 since he announced his retirement in April.
In a Twitter live stream from Charlotte in May, Junior said,
Alex Bowman to the 88 next year — is that what you guys want? That would be pretty awesome to see Alex in that car. That’s the plan, I hope. Yeah, Alex in the 88. That sounds good to me. That kid earned it last year. He ran good.
Former Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon, who briefly came out of retirement to drive 8 races in the No. 88 while Junior recovered, also expressed his confidence in Bowman’s readiness to take over the ride.
I had a chance to get behind the wheel with the 88 team and it was tough for me to jump in there and fill those shoes of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and all the media and hype around that, so for a young man like Alex to get in there and do the job that he did. He’s paid his dues. He’s worked hard.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson,who drives the Hendrick No. 48, echoed Gordon and Earnhardt’s sentiments in an interview with NBC Sports at New Hampshire last week.
When I look at how he stepped in seamlessly, it was really impressive for me. He handled the pressure, won a pole (at Phoenix), was up there duking it out for race wins, had a heated moment or two with some of the veterans and wasn’t rattled.I think he’d be a great fit to come in that car from a wide variety of angles.
Bowman Is No Rookie In the NASCAR Cup Series
Although he may not have been well known to fans until he substituted for Junior, Bowman is no rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series. He has had 81 Cup starts in his NASCAR Cup Series career. He made his Cup debut in the 2014 Daytona 500, driving for BK Racing.
He left BK to join Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2015 but found himself out of a ride when Baldwin sold his charter to Leavine Racing before the start of the 2016 season. Baldwin now fields two part time cars in the Cup Series.
Bowman, a 24-year-old Arizona native, has been racing since he was 7 years old, driving Midgets and and Sprint Cars before moving on to stock cars at the age of 17.