It will take NASCAR fans a bit of getting used to life without Dale Earnhardt Jr. Alex Bowman is the new driver of the No. 88 car. Bowman drove the car in 10 races last season as Earnhardt Jr. was recovering from injury, and now Bowman has the gig full-time. Bowman spoke about the new opportunity in a Hendrick Motorsports press release.
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.
The No. 88 team is such a great group of people. I know we can pick up where we left off last year, and I truly believe we can win races and contend for a championship. I’m excited to build on the relationship with Nationwide and all of our partners. 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.
Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick spoke about why they chose Bowman to follow Earnhardt Jr.
“Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism,” Hendrick said in the press release. “He stepped up in a very demanding situation and showed that he can run with the best and compete for wins. 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.”
When Earnhardt Jr. was hurt last season, he vouched for Bowman to be his replacement, and now it has become permanent with Earnhardt Jr. retiring.
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. said when he got hurt, ‘I want Alex in the car, he’s got a ton of talent,’” Hendrick told the Charlotte Observer.
Bowman explained to the USA Today that he hoped to win over Earnhardt Jr.’s old fans, and the best way to do that is to have success on the track.
“Obviously the 88 has got a large following, so I’m going to do my best to keep Junior Nation happy and keep that 88 car out front,” Bowman told the USA Today. “That’s what they hired me to do.”
Bowman brings with him a solid amount of experience for a new driver. According to Motorsport.com, he has run 71 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and 40 races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with six top 10 finishes.
ESPN’s Bob Pockrass named Bowman as one of eight drivers who has the potential to take over Earnhardt Jr.’s spot as the most popular driver.
He has the endorsement of Dale Jr. to drive the No. 88 car. People feel he has paid his dues driving for a couple of underfunded teams.