By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
* Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into next month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Two
Career Wins: One NASCAR Xfinity Series Victory
It seems that one of NASCAR’s most recent journeyman drivers has finally found a permanent home. Alex Bowman will take over the reins of the No. 88 Nationwide Camaro ZL1 at Hendrick Motorsports.
In 2017 Bowman competed sporadically. He finished third the in Advanced Auto Parts Clash. Bowman then filled-in for Justin Haley in the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado for GMS Racing, earning a top-10 finish. Then came a two-race stint for Chip Ganassi Racing where he finally broke through, taking the checkered flag for the first time in NASCAR competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The last time Bowman competed full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was 2015 for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Since then, Bowman has been a test driver for Hendrick Motorsports, spending time at NASCAR tests and in Chevrolet’s simulator.
In 2016, he ran 10 races substituting for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who was sidelined with a concussion. In those 10 races, Bowman earned three top-10s and a pole position at ISM Raceway. Until a late race restart, it seemed that he would be well on his way to earning what would have been his first career NASCAR victory.
“I think everyone shows up to Daytona a bit rusty anyways,” Bowman explained during the Hendrick Motorsports paint scheme unveil last year. “I’ve been in the simulator more than anyone else by far. I’ve been doing some wheel-force testing too, and everywhere we’ve unloaded we’ve still been really fast. Some of the places we’ve unloaded with the wheel-force car we’ve been faster than the regular race cars that were there, so I think we’ve been really solid with that. The speed hasn’t been an issue. Obviously, we haven’t raced guys, but I think we’ll be fine.”
With expectations for the new Camaro ZL1 high, and Bowman filling the void left behind by NASCAR’s Most Popular driver, Earnhardt, there is a lot riding on Bowman’s shoulders. With the promise he has shown in the few races he’s had in Hendrick equipment, it is likely that 2018 will be a breakout year for Tucson, AZ’s Bowman.