NASCAR: The Alex Bowman replacement trend continues

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement is also set to become Jimmie Johnson’s replacement, and with the same NASCAR Cup Series team.

For the second time in a span of 36 months, Alex Bowman is set to replace a NASCAR icon behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

And for the third time, he is set to get behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet that was last driven by a legend of the sport.

Bowman had long been seen as the successor to Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel of the #88 Chevrolet after Earnhardt retired from full-time competition following the 2017 season.

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He had shared time with four-time champion Jeff Gordon behind the wheel of the #88 Chevrolet in the second half of the 2016 season when Earnhardt was out with concussion-like symptoms and ended up missing the rest of the season.

For four of Bowman’s 10 starts behind the wheel of Earnhardt’s car, Gordon was the man who had most recently driven it. Gordon had stepped away from full-time competition after the 2015 season and was never under consideration to return to Hendrick Motorsports in a full-time capacity.

Earnhardt returned for the 2017 season but announced that April that it would be his last. Bowman was confirmed as his successor that July.

Bowman landed this full-time ride, his first since he drove for Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2015, for the 2018 season and drove the #88 Chevrolet as its full-time driver for the first time at Daytona International Speedway in February, when he took the pole position for the 60th annual Daytona 500.

The 27-year-old Tucson, Arizona native signed a two-year contract extension that August and entered the 2020 season as a pending free agent.

He signed a one-year contract extension in mid-May, but that extension did not confirm that he would be back behind the wheel of the #88 Chevrolet.

Considering his overall lack of sponsorship, it made sense to move him to the #48 Chevrolet, which had extended Ally Financial as its full-time primary sponsor through the 2023 season in October of 2019. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson had announced in November of 2019 that he would be retiring from full-time competition after the 2020 season.

And that move to the #48 Chevrolet is exactly what Hendrick Motorsports confirmed this past October.

The #48 Chevrolet has been driven only by Jimmie Johnson since the 2002 season, aside from one start in July of last year when he was replaced by Justin Allgaier after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

That is set to change this season.

When Bowman officially takes over behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet, he will have replaced both Earnhardt and Johnson, and he will have driven Hendrick Motorsports cars which had been most recently driven by Gordon, Earnhardt and Johnson, three drivers who won a combined 11 championships and six Daytona 500s for the team.

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The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is scheduled to get underway this Sunday, February 14 with the 63rd annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Fox is set to broadcast the race live beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Bowman took the pole position in single-car qualifying on Wednesday evening.