Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is retiring from the Cup Series at the end of the 2020 season and leaving the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro behind. Now, a Hendrick Motorsports teammate will take over the iconic car. Alex Bowman, the current driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet Camaro, will move to the No. 48 for 2021 and beyond.
HMS announced the move on Tuesday evening, bringing the end to months of questions. Fans have wondered if Bowman would move to the 48 after Johnson initially announced his retirement, as well as how he would handle the pressure. Taking over for an iconic driver is nothing new for Bowman considering that he replaced 15-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88. Now he will replace the seven-time champion in Johnson while partnering with a new primary sponsor in Ally.
"We just got done with the 'what’s it like to take over Dale Jr.'s race car' 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 said, per 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."
Bowman also explained that departing the No. 88 is bittersweet for him. He originally took over Earnhardt's car on a full-time basis for the 2018 season but did not try to copy Earnhardt. Instead, he said that he tried to be himself while building up a fanbase.
Since joining HMS full-time in 2018, Bowman has proceeded to win two races and secure 14 top-five finishes. He currently is in the midst of the 2020 Cup Series Playoffs and is on the cusp of moving on to the round of eight. He sits in seventh overall, 22 points above the cutoff line. Now he will have extra attention on him during Sunday's race at Charlotte.
Prior to the announcement of Bowman's future, many fans wondered if Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace or someone else would land in the No. 48. Wallace removed himself from the equation with the announcement that he would join Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan on an entirely new team in 2021 while NASCAR has not yet reinstated the suspended Larson. Meanwhile, Bowman is under contract with HMS through next season.