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Alex Bowman to run The Clash for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 88

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While Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition, Alex Bowman will run the No. 88 in the first on-track event of 2017.

Bowman will compete in the non-points exhibition race, The Clash, on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway. Open to pole winners from the previous season, Bowman is eligible to compete in the event after earning his first career pole at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

Earnhardt is also eligible for The Clash as a past winner but Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that he would not be competing in the event.

When Earnhardt was sidelined for the final 18 races of the season, Bowman and Jeff Gordon split time in the No. 88 with Bowman piloting the car in 10 races and Gordon in eight.

“Alex did such a great job in the car this year, and I felt like he deserved another opportunity,” Earnhardt said in a team release. “When I spoke with Rick (Hendrick, owner) and the team about him driving The Clash, everyone agreed that he more than earned it, and Nationwide was 100 percent on board. I’m really grateful to him and Jeff for what they did for our team, and I’m glad Alex is getting another run with us.”

In addition to earning the No. 88 team its lone pole of the season, Bowman also earned a career-best sixth-place finish at Phoenix.

NASCAR America: Is there cause for concern with Jimmie Johnson’s performance thus far?

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It’s no secret that Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start in 2017.

The defending and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has a starting average of 21.8 and a finishing average of 18.8 in the first five races of this season.

He has just one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix), along with 34th at Daytona, 19th at Atlanta, 11th at Las Vegas and 21st Sunday at Fontana.

And let’s not forget he’s 17th in the NASCAR Cup standings heading to one of his strongest tracks, Martinsville Speedway, this Sunday.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, we discussed this: After such a slow start to the season, is there a cause for concern over Johnson’s performance?

NASCAR America: Mark Martin is definitely a Kyle Larson fan

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin shared his experience of racing in his home state of Arkansas, as well as the excitement he feels watching  Kyle Larson compete in the Cup series.

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson involved in minor fender bender while leaving Fontana

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Kyle Larson‘s spectacular weekend at Auto Club Speedway — winning both Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup event — left him feeling good.

But shortly upon exiting the facility, Larson and several others were involved in a fender-bender right outside the Speedway. Larson was a passenger, not the driver.

No one was injured, Larson tweeted.

But somehow, isn’t that strange fate?

NASCAR America: Kyle Larson’s Fontana win shows continued maturing as a driver

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Kyle Larson finally broke his streak of three straight runner-up finishes with his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, the crew discussed his win as well as his maturation as a driver.