One of the premier rides on the NASCAR Cup Series soon will have a new full-time driver.
Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday announced that 27-year-old Alex Bowman will replace soon-to-be-retired Jimmie Johnson next season in the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro. All will continue its primary sponsorship of the car despite the departure of Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR champion.
“We have tremendous faith in this team,” HMS owner Rick Hendrick said in a press release. “Every season, Alex gets better. Not only do we see it in the statistics, but his confidence and leadership have truly blossomed. Today he’s a proven winner and playoff contender, and his best years are ahead.”
Greg Ives, Bowman’s current crew chief, also will move to the No. 48 team.
Bowman is making a habit of filling seats left by NASCAR legends.
In 2018, he took over the No. 88 following the retirement of Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the most popular drivers in the history of the sport. And next season, he’ll replace one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history.
“We just got done with the ‘what’s it like to take over Dale Jr.’s racecar’ question, so now we’re following it up with the Jimmie Johnson’s race car questions. To me, it’s really special, for sure,” Bowman told NASCAR.com. “Both of them have had so much to do with my career. Obviously, I wouldn’t be driving for Hendrick Motorsports at all without Dale’s help, and since then, Jimmie’s been a huge part of it.
“It’s tough to take over from the most popular of all time, and then three years later to follow that up with arguably the greatest of all time. But it means a lot to me that everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has faith in me, and Ally has faith in me to do a good job and make the 48 car proud.”
Johnson, 45, has mentored Bowman since he became part of the HMS family.
“I think the world’s been eagerly awaiting, and obviously a big day for all of us,” Johnson, who has his sights set on racing IndyCar next year, told NASCAR.com. “Very happy for Alex, very proud of Alex. When I look at his journey to climb the ladder and to get to where he is today, that guy has had to work his guts out for his opportunity, time and time again.
“Every time he’s had the opportunity, he’s made the most of it and has earned that next ride.”
Bowman has 37 top 10 finishes, including two victories, in 184 Cup races over his six-year career. He qualified for the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Playoffs and currently sits seventh in the playoff standings.