Replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. is no easy task. Junior nation is strong, and their beloved driver is leaving a big hole in the sport. Dale Jr.’s replacement is chomping at the bit to take on that challenge. Alex Bowman can’t wait to get back into the driver’s seat.
“I’m definitely ready to go,” Bowman said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio via Motorsport.com. “I’d love to be in a car as soon as possible. Definitely want to get back to racing but I’m kind of taking some time to enjoy things and just taking advantage of some of the free time I have that I, hopefully, won’t have for the rest of my career.
“It’s kind of been nice to have some time off and have time to myself. I’ve never been on a vacation, so I have a vacation coming up. I’ve got all kinds of stuff going on so it’s been a lot of fun.”
He knows to take advantage of the time off he has now though, and hopes he won’t have much more of it until he can ride off into the sunset like Earnhardt Jr.
In July, Hendrick Motorsports announced Alex Bowman will replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car next season, and the 24-year-old’s rise to the Cup Series started in 2014.
Bowman got to know Earnhardt in 2014 when the two were paired together after qualifying next to each other, and Bowman said the two “started a friendship there.”
Bowman said he “wouldn’t be here” without Earnhardt’s support.
“It’s been really cool to have his support,” Bowman said. “He’s been a great friend and another person that without his help I wouldn’t be here.”
According to Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt convinced Bowman not to take a full-time gig before the 2017 season. Earnhardt’s advice and Bowman’s patience paid off as Bowman landed the 88 car less than a year later.
Bowman said he recognizes the pressure involved in taking over for Earnhardt, and he said, “It means a lot” for him to take over for him next season.
“Obviously I’m not Dale Jr.,” Bowman said. “I’m not going to fill Dale Jr.’s shoes by any means. I just want to be my own person and do my own thing. I’m not going to even try to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s his own person and I’m my own person.
“But to drive a car that he drove and to take that over, hopefully maintain a lot of support from JR Nation – they’ve been great and super supportive every time I’ve driven the car – it’s going to be really neat.”
Having Earnhardt’s support should make the transition much smoother for Bowman and Earnhardt’s passionate fan base.
Related: Meet the 19-year-old replacing Kasey Kahne next season for Hendrick Motorsports