CHARLOTTE, NC – Essentially the most coveted seat in NASCAR belongs to Alex Bowman in a shuffle on the Hendrick Motorsports lineup to interchange seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson within the iconic # 48 Chevrolet.
Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives, who has gained 5 championships with Johnson as an engineer, will change from the No. 88 to Johnson’s drive on the finish of the season. The swap introduced on Tuesday makes Bowman the second rider on the group that was shaped particularly for Johnson in 2001.
Johnson’s 19th full season is his final in NASCAR and he’ll change to a part-IndyCar schedule subsequent 12 months. His resignation opened the door for Bowman to interchange a NASCAR celebrity for the second time in 4 years. Two years in the past he changed Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It is undoubtedly fairly comparable, going from (changing) the most well-liked driver of all time to (changing) what’s arguably the best of all time,” Bowman instructed The Related Press. “It is simply an honor for me to have the ability to drive one other automobile with a big quantity. I do know I will be getting lots of the similar questions that I’ve answered over time. Simply exchange Jimmie Johnson with Dale Earnhardt Jr.” . For anybody who has confidence in me, it solely means the world to me. “
Hendrick Motorsports mentioned it could tackle its plans for the No. 88 over the following few weeks. Kyle Larson, who has been suspended from NASCAR since April for utilizing a racial fraud, is the lead candidate for this opening.
The No. 48 is sponsored by Ally, one among solely two corporations to fund a automobile for all the 38-Race Cup collection schedule. Ally needed Johnson’s successor to struggle for titles, and Bowman, who has certified for the playoffs with Hendrick each three years, is at the moment ready to advance to the spherical of 16 this week.
“It is completely championship caliber, and we wish to win championships. And this automobile, with its historical past and quantity, deserves a racing driver of Alex’s caliber,” mentioned Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s advertising and marketing and PR director.
The quantity 88 has used 5 totally different sponsors to date this season.
Ally changed Lowe’s in 2019 for Johnson’s last two seasons and prolonged his contract with Hendrick to 2023. Bowman brings Ally along with a 27-year-old auto fanatic and an empty plan to create a brand new advertising and marketing plan.
Bowman was excessive on the record Rick Hendrick gave Ally when Johnson mentioned this season can be his final.
“Mr. Hendrick has such superb confidence in Alex and talks about him so effectively, and we belief Rick a lot. It made it really easy to say Alex was our sort,” mentioned Brimmer.
Bowman signed a one-year extension in March for an additional season within the No. 88. He has gained one cup race in every of the previous two years and is on observe for one of the best statistical season of his profession.
“Alex is getting higher with each season. We do not simply see it within the statistics, however his confidence and management has actually grown,” mentioned Rick Hendrick. “At this time he’s a confirmed winner and playoff contender and his prime is forward of us.”
The # 48 was constructed round Johnson, who drove the automobile in all however one among his 737 races prior to now 20 seasons. Johnson missed the July Indianapolis race after a optimistic COVID-19 check and Justin Allgaier changed him.
Johnson drove the No. 48 to a file seven cup titles, together with 5 straight from 2006 to 2010, and 83 wins.
It took Bowman years to struggle his means right into a prime trip, and his break got here when he barely survived within the sport. He’d jumped round within the Xfinity collection earlier than settling for under par cup rides in 2014 and 2015.
He then gambled on his future by taking a part-time job on the Xfinity collection for Earnhardt’s group in 2016. When Earnhardt was out with a concussion later that 12 months, Bowman accomplished 10 Cup races at Hendrick.
Bowman spent 2017 outdoors the automobile however assisted Hendrick and Normal Motors in improvement as a devoted simulator driver. Bowman was then employed full-time for the No. 88 when Earnhardt retired on the finish of the season.
His path is a bit much like Johnson in that Johnson spent a number of seasons touchdown a aggressive trip earlier than reaching out to Jeff Gordon for recommendation at a pre-race drivers assembly. That dialog was the place to begin for Gordon and Hendrick, who shaped Crew # 48 for Johnson.
“I really feel like Alex made his strategy to the cup degree very very similar to I did, by rolling up my sleeves and attending to work,” Johnson instructed AP. “You need to show your self over and over to benefit from the alternatives. They aren’t precisely the identical path, however I really feel like I do know your journey.
“He made his means into the ’88 via onerous work and dedication and doing the issues nobody else needed to do,” mentioned Johnson. “He ran nice and deserved the chance to drive the 48.”