Alex Bowman is going to take over a very high-profile ride in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season but he’s determined to make it a smooth transition.
Over the summer, Bowman was named as the replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s most popular driver, after he retires from full-time competition at the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Bowman, 24, served as a substitute driver for Earnhardt last season when Earnhardt missed about half the year while recovering from a concussion. He earned three top-10 finishes, including a sixth at Phoenix after starting from the pole, in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 88 Chevrolet.
“I’m going to have as much fun as I can,” Bowman said Wednesday during a manufacturer wheel-force transducer test at Texas Motor Speedway. “I'm not Dale Earnhardt Jr. I can only be myself. I'm going to do my thing.
“It’s just a normal race car. It’s not any different from anything that I’ve done. It’s just that we have more tools and more resources to be more competitive.”
Bowman represented Chevrolet in the two-day test at Texas, while Landon Cassill represented Ford and Drew Herring represented Toyota.
Bowman has been without a regular ride this season, making just one national series start, the Atlanta Truck Series race for GMS Racing. The wheel-force test sessions offer Bowman his only on-track preparation for his debut season with HMS.
Although Earnhardt has already signed on with NBC Sports to be a race analyst on its broadcasts next season, Bowman said also expects him to be “a big part” of his No. 88 team.
“He’s a great person to have for support and a great teammate to lean on,” Bowman said of Earnhardt. “I think he is going to be a big part of the team and we’ll kind of just wait and see. He's been a big part of it so far when I've been in the car. I think going forward in 2018 it will be more of the same.”
This week’s test allowed Bowman to get some track time on a track that has undergone extensive renovation and re-paving since his last race there.
“Texas has really changed a lot,” he said. “It's been really interesting. (Turns) 1 and 2 are definitely tricky. It’s really hard with three cars to get the track rubbered in and blown off.
“I love this place. It’s a great place to come. There seems to be a lot of great fans and it's always fun to come to Texas.”