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.