Tucson’s Alex Bowman honored to take over famed No. 48 from Jimmie Johnson

Alex Bowman (left) receives a big hug from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmy Johnson at the NASCAR Cup Series’ Auto Club 400. Bowman recently learned he will take over the No. 48 car from Johnson. (Photo by Lyle Setter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tucson native Alex Bowman has grown accustomed to taking on large roles in the NASCAR Cup Series.

In 2016, he captured the attention of the racing world when he filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been sidelined with a concussion toward the end of the season. Upon the 15-time most popular driver’s departure the following year, Bowman became the successor to the iconic No. 88 car for Hendrick Motorsports.

Two wins and 34 top-10 finishes later, Bowman has proven his worth and is now being rewarded with one of the most prestigious honors in the sport’s history.

At the conclusion of the 2020 season, the 27-year-old Bowman will lay claim to the famed No. 48 Chevrolet driven by seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

More than just a numerical identity, the 48 has become synonymous in NASCAR with dominance and class. Although an undoubtedly tall order to take over such a revered seat, Bowman’s ready.

“I think, for sure, the experience of the first one helps for the second one,” Bowman said. “The biggest thing is I just want to be myself. I didn’t try to be Dale (Earnhardt Jr.), I didn’t want to be Dale and the same with Jimmie (Johnson). I don’t want to be Jimmie – I mean, I want to win seven championships and do all the great things that he did, but I’m my own person.

“I’m just going to approach it like any other race car. The biggest thing for me is I want to go win races and win championships. I think, for me, I’m quiet and reserved, and I want the on-track stuff to speak for me the most.”

Alex Bowman (right) said it is an honor to take over the No. 48 car from Jimmie Johnson. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

In making this transition, Bowman will also inherit the backing of Ally Financial as a year-round primary sponsor. The bank holding company recently signed an extension with Hendrick Motorsports through 2023, so this partnership brings a welcomed assurance to the young driver’s new venture, who struggled to lock down sponsorships during his three-year tenure in the No. 88 car.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this partnership is the unrelenting support and freedom he’ll receive – two things Johnson has been vocal in praise about since Ally joined forces with him in 2019.

“Alex is somebody that I think represents the future of what NASCAR is about and he’s an unbelievable driver,” said Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer. “We want to make the car his own. We want to let his personality shine through, and we want to make sure that he knows that he’s got us on board with him, so that he can be the best that he can be on the track.”

Bowman’s quiet confidence, ambition, initiative in contributing to communities and love for animals (especially dogs) are all qualities and values Brimmer was drawn to. These combined with the Arizona native’s undeniable competitive edge are all things she believes make this the perfect pairing.

Related story

Returning home to the team that gave him the opportunity to flourish in a new role is Bowman’s crew chief Greg Ives. The 41-year-old used to be a race engineer on the No. 48 car and won five championships with Johnson during that time. It “meant a lot” to the seven-time champion that his former engineer would be atop the pit box following his departure and he believes die-hard fans will be thrilled with the move as well.

“The 48 number is pretty close to my heart just because it’s something that’s helped my career and opened doors for me,” Ives said. “It’s something that’s truly special, kind of full circle, for sure. I’m honored to represent Ally and to also represent the 48 again.”

Perhaps the most important endorsement Bowman has received is the one from Johnson. After 19 full-time seasons, seven series titles and 83 wins, he is certain the 27-year-old is the perfect candidate to take over his duties in piloting his legendary ride.

“He’s earned the right,” Johnson said. “To see him develop as a driver and continue to apply himself more and more each and every year, to continue to mature and grow, he really has earned the opportunity to drive this 48 car, and I believe he’s going to do an amazing job behind the wheel.”

Before Bowman suits up for the start of a new chapter, his focus lies on closing the book on his career in the No. 88 car as a Cup Series champion. With only four races remaining until the series finale at Phoenix Raceway, he sits 22 points above the cutoff heading into the final race in the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Cole Cusumano was born and raised in Staten Island, New York, but has lived in Arizona for more than 14 years. He expects to graduate in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is a digital reporter for Cronkite News with an emphasis on sports.