One year after his impressive debut with Hendrick Motorsports, the team has named Alex Bowman full-time driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series with a 19-race majority sponsorship from Nationwide beginning in 2018.
Bowman, 24, piloted the No. 88 Chevrolet SS in 10 of the final 18 Cup races last season in place of injured driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Tucson, Arizona, native debuted July 17, 2016, at New Hampshire and went on to earn three top-10 finishes with the team including a sixth-place result at Phoenix, where he won the pole position and led a race-high 194 laps.
“Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do,” Bowman said. “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.”
Nationwide, one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States, joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2014 as a corporate partner and in 2015 became majority sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet with driver Earnhardt, who will retire from full-time racing at the end of 2017. Nationwide’s 19 primary races with Bowman and the team in 2018 will include the season-opening Daytona 500.
“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and welcome Alex to the No. 88 Nationwide team,” said Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer at Nationwide. “Rick Hendrick and the No. 88 team have been exceptional partners for the last three years, and we look forward to our joint commitment and engagement with the NASCAR community, both on and off the track.”
In addition to Nationwide’s one-year extension, Axalta Coating Systems (NYSE: AXTA), a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, will increase its number of races featured as the primary sponsor of the No. 88 team by two for next season, bringing its total to 15 Cup events with Bowman in 2018. Axalta has been a Hendrick Motorsports corporate partner since 1992 and a sponsor of the No. 88 Chevrolet since 2016.
Hendrick Motorsports signed Bowman on Oct. 6, 2016, following his first four races driving for Earnhardt and working with No. 88 crew chief Greg Ives. In 2017, he has been an integral part of the simulation and on-track testing programs for the 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions and manufacturer Chevrolet.
“Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “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.
“Our relationship with Nationwide is unbelievable. They have a true passion for NASCAR and our fans, and to have them extend with us is gratifying for our whole team. It’s also a credit to the way Alex carried himself last season and built lasting relationships. We’re fortunate to work with partners like Nationwide and Axalta that have built impactful, enduring programs around the countless opportunities our sport provides.”
At 7 years old, Bowman began racing on the short tracks of Arizona and California, driving quarter-midgets before advancing to USAC sprint cars. He transitioned to full-bodied stock cars at age 17, initially making starts in the 2010 Pro Cup Series and later the 2011 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he finished sixth in points and won rookie of the year.
Bowman also entered two ARCA Racing Series events in 2011, winning them both — at Madison International Speedway and Kansas Speedway. After Team Penske signed him in 2012, Bowman posted four ARCA wins — Salem, Winchester, Iowa and Kansas — and led 20 percent of the season’s total laps to earn another rookie of the year award. He made his first NASCAR national series start Sept. 15, 2012, at Chicagoland in the Xfinity Series, which he ran full-time in 2013 for RAB Racing.
As a 21-year-old rookie, Bowman made his NASCAR Cup debut in the 2014 Daytona 500. Over the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he started 71 Cup events while running full-time for BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. Notably, he competed twice in the 2014 Xfinity Series and once in the 2015 NASCAR Truck Series for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports, which is affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports.
In 2016, Bowman made nine Xfinity Series starts for JR Motorsports, recording one pole position, three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. His 10 Cup Series appearances for Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 included top-10 results in playoff races at Chicagoland, Kansas and Phoenix. He now has 133 career starts across NASCAR’s three national series, including one in the 2017 Truck Series.
This announcement was not a great surprise to this reporter, but I am sure that it may be seen as curve ball to others!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!