CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The most coveted seat in NASCAR belongs to Alex Bowman in a Hendrick Motorsports lineup shuffle to replace seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson in the iconic No. 48 Chevrolet.
Bowman and crew chief Greg Ives, who won five championships with Johnson as his engineer, will move from the No. 88 into Johnson's ride at the end of the season. The swap announced Tuesday makes Bowman just the second driver of the team created in 2001 specifically for Johnson.
Johnson's 19th full season is his last in NASCAR and he will move to a partial IndyCar schedule next year. His retirement opened the door for Bowman to replace a NASCAR superstar for the second time in four years. Two years ago, he replaced Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It's definitely pretty similar, you go from (replacing) the most popular driver of all time to (replacing) arguably the greatest of all time,” Bowman told The Associated Press. “It's just an honor for me to get to drive another car with a great number. I know I'm going to get a lot of the same questions I've answered the last couple of years, just replace Jimmie Johnson for Dale Earnhardt Jr. For everyone who has the confidence in me to do it just means the world to me.”
Hendrick Motorsports said it will address its plans for the No. 88 in the next few weeks. Kyle Larson, suspended by NASCAR since April for using a racial slur, is the leading candidate for that opening.
The No. 48 is sponsored by Ally, one of just two companies that funds a car for the entire 38-race Cup Series schedule. Ally wanted Johnson's replacement to contend for titles and Bowman, who has qualified for the playoffs all three years with Hendrick, is currently in position to advance this week into the round of eight.
“He is absolutely championship caliber, and we want to win championships. And this car, with its story and the number, it deserves a racer of Alex’s caliber,” said Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer for Ally.
The No. 88, meanwhile, has used five different sponsors so far this season.